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Posted by on Feb 18, 2015 in Education, History | 22 comments

Oklahoma’s All-Out Attack on Historical Accuracy in the Classroom

Here’s a question for you: What do we need more of in our public schools?

The correct answer is “money.” But lawmakers in Oklahoma have an answer of their own: “organized religion.”

The new AP History curriculum hasn’t received much love from the Republican National Committee; back in September, they made headlines by condemning what they called a “radical,” “revisionist,” and “biased” curriculum. Coming under fire were those parts of the curriculum that referred to early American institutions such as racism and slavery. According to an open letter from the College Board, which created the curriculum, this was an attempt to teach American students “the ‘why’ of U.S. history, and to make its deeper meanings come alive to students.”

Sounds good to me. Common sense tells us that studying and understanding our past is the key to avoiding the same mistakes in the future. This fact is apparently lost on Peter Wood, a champion of ignorance, who responded to the new curriculum by calling it a “briefing document on progressive and leftist views of the American past.” Meanwhile, Ken Mercer, a Texas School Board member, attempted to delay the deployment of the curriculum “indefinitely” because it contained what he called “negative stuff.”

Fast-forward five months, and the debate is far from over. A bill recently approved (in an 11-4 vote) in Oklahoma, authored by Representative Dan Fisher, will seek to do two things.

The first would be to ban the new AP History curriculum and all of that “negative stuff.” The second would be to replace it with a curriculum that contains the 10 Commandments and a selection of other “foundational documents.”

You know: American history-type stuff. But just for good measure, they’re throwing in a few speeches made by GOP patron saints Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. And why wouldn’t they? The Bible and trickle-down economics make for the best of bedfellows.

In total, the new “approved” curriculum would contain some 58 documents that will form “the base level of academic content for all US History courses…in the state.”

This time around, the opposition is being led by a retired high school history teacher named Larry S. Krieger and anti-Common Core activist Jane Robbins. Among the many problems with their argument is the fact that they incorrectly associate the AP history curriculum with the Common Core—an altogether different debate. They have a whole platform and website built around this wrongful conflation, which I will not do the courtesy of linking to here.

In its response, the College Board said that the opposition to the AP History curriculum is based on “significant misunderstandings.” Going into further detail, College Board President Dan Coleman confirmed that the curriculum was written by K-12 teachers and professors from around the country, and has received widespread approval. He even provided a sample test, which you can check out for yourself here.

The outcries in Texas and Oklahoma have inspired similar attacks on educational integrity in the states of Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas.

Image Credit: Flickr (via Creative Commons License)

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