Ben Carson
(Photo by Scott Morgan for The Washington Post)

The new Advanced Placement U.S. history framework has become the target of intense criticism from conservatives who charge that it is anti-American, the latest attack coming on Monday from potential GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, a famed pediatric neurosurgeon who said that “most people” who complete the course would then be “ready to sign up for ISIS.”

Conservatives have said that the new history framework —  being used this fall in classrooms around the country — does not highlight American achievements or mention key American historical figures but spends a lot of time talking about America’s worst period.  Top officials at the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, have said there is nothing anti-American about the document.  College Board President David Coleman and AP program head Trevor Packer have both rejected the criticism, noting that the controversial framework is not a full curriculum but an outline for teachers to design their own lesson plans according to individual state requirements.

AP courses do not come prepackaged, giving teachers freedom to develop their own curriculum and lesson plans. The previous framework, which was updated after teachers complained that it had too much in it and did not allow students time to delve deeply into any particular subject, did not include specific names or dates either. The authors of the new framework issued a public letter recently that said in part:

The AP U.S. History course is an advanced, college-level course – not an introductory U.S. history course — and is not meant to be students’ first exposure to the fundamental narrative of U.S. history. Because countless states, districts, and schools have their own standards for U.S. history teaching, we did not want to usurp local control by prescribing a detailed national curriculum of people, places, and events. As a result, we created a framework , not a full curriculum, so that local decision makers and teachers could populate the course with content that is meaningful to them and that satisfies their state mandates (such as teachers choosing to discuss the heroic World War II experiences of Bob Dole, Daniel Inouye, or Dorie Miller).

 

The new framework — known as APUSH — has been under attack for weeks. The Republican National Committee last month passed a resolution bashing it as reflecting “a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.” The RNC urged the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, to delay implementation for a year until it can be reviewed.

After the RNC resolution was passed, Coleman issued a letter saying that the criticism was confusing the framework with a curriculum, but said that to help ease the minds of people concerned that the course did not pay enough attention to the nation’s founders, he would release a full practice exam for the AP course (see below).

That didn’t stem the criticism, and Carson joined the conservative attack on Monday. My Post colleague reported on Monday that Carson, a contributor to FOX News, said the “likelihood is strong” that he will run for president in 2016 and a fundraising front, the National Draft Ben Carson Committee,  is already raising millions of dollars.

Media Matters reported on Monday that Carson appeared at the Center for Security Policy’s National Security Action Summit and said the history course being taught in schools is so distorted that he thinks that “most people when they finish that course they’d be ready to sign up for ISIS.” (See video below.) ISIS is the terrorist organization that the United States has targeted with air strikes in Syria and Iraq. He said:

“I am a little shocked quite frankly looking at the AP course in American history that’s being taught in high schools across our country right now. There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington. George Washington, believe it or not. Little or nothing about Martin Luther King. A whole section of slavery and how evil we are. A whole section about Japanese internment camps. A whole section about how we wiped out American Indians with no mercy. I mean I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to sign up for ISIS. This is what we are doing to the young people in our nation. We have got to stop this silliness. We have to stop crucifying ourselves. Have we made mistakes as a nation? Of course we have. Why? Because we are people and all people make mistakes.”

Carson has previously made headlines for comments against gay marriage as well and against evolution.

Meanwhile, in Jefferson County, Colorado, about 1,000 students have been protesting a call by a member of the Board of Education there for a review of the AP history course to see if it, among other things, promotes civil disobedience. The College Board issued an unprecedented statement late last week saying it was supporting the students. The statement said in part:

“The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member’s request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course. These students recognize that the social order can — and sometimes must — be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history — from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course.”

 

Here’s the video of Carson on Monday at the Center for Security Policy’s National Security Action Summit:

 

Here’s the U.S. History practice exam:

AP US History Practice Exam


URL