Oklahoma Lawmakers Think AP US History Is Too Negative Towards America

February 18th 2015

Alicia Lutes

An Oklahoma House Committee just approved a bill that would ban the teaching of AP United States History in high schools, railing against the idea of a nationalized education system and the lack of patriotism in the coursework itself. 

On Monday, State Rep. Dan Fisher (R) decried the College Board's framework for the course, saying it focuses on "what's bad about America" as well as completely eliminating the idea of "American exceptionalism" from the course. All of this comes on the heels of an almost verbatim dissent this summer from the Republican National Committee, which argued that the College Board's AP U.S. History course is a "radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects."

They were, like Fisher, upset with the lack of discussion on the Founding Fathers and the exclusion of specific information on American military commanders and battles. The RNC cited an open letter from two conservative groups — Concerned Women for America and American Principles in Action — that condemned the framework's "theme of oppression and conflict."

"Instead of striving to build a 'City upon a Hill,' as generations of students have been taught," the letter reads, "the colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed 'a rigid racial hierarchy' that was in turn derived from 'a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority.' The new Framework continues its theme of oppression and conflict by reinterpreting Manifest Destiny from a belief that America had a mission to spread democracy and new technologies across the continent to something that 'was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.'"

What seems most interesting and vital to point out, though, is that Oklahoma legislators, by doing this, are inherently disregarding the purpose of AP courses themselves. It should be pointed out that AP courses — unlike other high school-level history courses — look to study more of the nuance and critical thinking behind the decisions our country has made throughout history. (You know, college-level stuff) They are, by design, intended for advance students operating at the university level that have already mastered such foundational concepts like the biographical history of the Founding Fathers — a particular with which Fisher's bill takes issue.

The mission of the College Board's AP program, per their website, is to provide "motivated high school students with the opportunity to take college-level courses in a high school setting. Students who participate in the Program not only gain college-level skills, but in many cases they also earn college credit while they are still in high school."

The vote ultimately came down on party lines, with The House Common Education Committee voting for the bill 11-4; Republicans voting for the ban and Democrats going against it. What a vote like this sets the stage for? The potential assessment and de-funding of any AP course that is deemed unfit by the state legislators. State Representative Sally Kern has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on the matter.

Now all that's left to do is wait for the Board of Education to review the guidelines and see whether or not they'll move to ban the courses.