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Culture Wars and Studying History (I)

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Oklahoma is moving to reject Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum because it doesn’t believe the new standards say that America is awesome enough:

State Rep. Dan Fisher (R) introduced a bill at the beginning of the month that keeps the state from funding AP U.S. History unless the College Board changes the curriculum. The bill also orders the state Department of Education to establish a U.S. History program that would replace the AP course.

Since the College Board released a new course framework for U.S. history in October 2012, conservative backlash against the course has grown significantly. The Republican National Committee condemned the course and its “consistently negative view of American history” in August. Numerous states and school districts have now taken action to denounce the exam.

Fisher said Monday that the AP U.S. History course emphasizes “what is bad about America” and complained that the framework eliminated the concept of “American exceptionalism,” according to the Tulsa World.

The House Common Education Committee voted for the bill 11-4, with all Republicans voting for the legislation and all Democrats voting against it.

During the hearing on the bill, state lawmakers also questioned the legality of all AP courses, comparing them to Common Core, which Oklahoma has repealed. According to the Tulsa World, lawmakers were concerned that College Board courses could be seen as an effort to create a national curriculum.

Given that conservatives (or for that matter most university administrations) see the study of history as basically irrelevant for education in the 21st century, the real point of it (for conservatives at least) is as a cudgel in the culture wars that have centered history education over and over again in recent years. Thus emphasizing Native Americans or Japanese internment or labor unions takes away from the need to learn about the awesomeness of Ronald Reagan, how Joe McCarthy was right, and how Martin Luther King would have opposed affirmative action because he had a dream.

Part II of this short series on Culture Wars and Studying History will come later tonight if I can get some work done. It concerns a bizarre essay by a very famous U.S. historian.

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