Political controversy sparked by changes to AP US History curriculum

By Sam Elliott | Staff Writer

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Junior Collin Hitt works on his AP US assignment. Photo credit: Sam Elliott

The College Board has released a new curriculum that is being used this year for AP United States History. This new curriculum has placed an emphasis on minorities instead of needing to know specific details about wars and battles.

“The curriculum focuses on the overall themes and ideas of American history and asks that students explain and argue instead of recalling facts,” AP US History teacher Jarred Stewart said.

The curriculum has sparked debate between political groups over the emphasis of the curriculum being socially and culturally oriented and steering away from military and political aspects.

“The debate over the curriculum is very reassuring to me in that it reaffirms that people care about how American history is taught. It shows that people care,” Mr. Stewart said.

From a student’s perspective, the emphasis of the curriculum is not their main focus, but how the test has changed is.

Short answer questions have been added to the written portion of the test. These short answer questions ask about historical events and require a brief answer to achieve the points.

The AP College Board also decided to remove one essay, so that this year students will only have to write one essay, not two.

“Although I care about all aspects of history, I mainly care about how I do on the test which is most affected by the physical changes like the writing revisions,” junior Cameron Weir said.

The curriculum is meant to provide students an unbiased perspective.

“I think that the controversy has an emphasis on the viewpoint of the curriculum, but it fails to realize that a teacher’s personal viewpoint or opinion may differ from the curriculum,” junior Collin Hitt said. “This can affect a student’s viewpoint of history and political groups.”

The curriculum focuses on the themes of movements and events but fails to directly mention specific names that were crucial to those movements or events such as Alexander Hamilton and Martin Luther King, Jr.

This allows students to use the examples of events or people they remember for a movement or development in history, without requiring them to display knowledge that is overly specific.

“Say a student remembers the civil rights movement in Texas but not Martin Luther King or another specific leader of civil rights. He can use that example for the question,” Mr. Stewart said.

Many conservatives have reacted in anger to the feeling that the curriculum portrays the founding fathers as bigoted, economic-seeking individuals and not the patriotic ideals typically portrayed in most American history classes of the past.

“In my classroom as well as Ms. Buchanan’s, we teach the TEKS along with the AP curriculum,” Mr. Stewart said. “This helps provide a fuller viewpoint with multiple emphases and opinions that offer a clearer viewpoint of history.”

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