The College Board: marching the U.S. to the left one history lesson at a time

In this post, I discussed the left-wing ideology behind the College Board’s development of new curriculum for the teaching of AP U.S. History. Here, I want to discuss how left-wing ideology is manifested in the College Board’s “Framework” for the AP U.S. History exam, which you can find here.

One manifestation is, as you would expect from a leftist project, is the downplaying of our Founding. If you read the document quickly, you might miss our constitutional moment altogether.

If you happen to come across it, amidst the constant enumeration of mistreatment of minorities and women, your main takeaway will be that the Constitution botched the issue of slavery. And your main takeaway about the Founding as a whole, aside from its “class” implications, will be that it helped spark the slave uprising in Haiti and the French Revolution.

This is “globalist” American history run amok. It’s also enough to make you wonder whether our Founders should have turned down their invitation to come to Philadelphia.

Things are no better when we examine the Framework’s treatment of 20th century American history. Consider the Progressive Era, about which the Framework states:

Progressive reformers responded to economic instability, social inequality, and political corruption by calling for government intervention in the economy, expanded democracy, greater social justice, and conservation of natural resources.

As Ron Radosh points out, there is no indication that progressive reform may have been instituted by corporate regulators for their own benefit, at the expense of small manufacturers and producers. This view of progressivism, developed by modern scholars, is not acknowledged.

That’s ironic because the College Board claims that it is simply updating the teaching of AP U.S. History to bring it into conformity with the “findings” of current scholarship. I agree with Stanley Kurtz that it’s absurd to characterize ideological spin as the equivalent of recent discoveries in physics or chemistry. But if new “findings” are going to be incorporated, they shouldn’t be confined to those that affirm the liberal narrative.

The Framework also sugar coats the New Deal:

The liberalism of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal drew on earlier progressive ideas and represented a multifaceted approach to both the causes and effects of the Great Depression, using government power to provide relief to the poor, to stimulate recovery, and reform the American economy.

Radical, union and populist movements pushed Roosevelt toward more extensive reforms, even as conservatives in Congress and the Supreme Court sought to limit the New Deal’s scope.

There is no reference to the criticism of the New Deal by historians like Radosh who deny that it stimulated recovery (the U.S. suffered through what was dubbed “the Roosevelt depression”) and who note the corporatist structure of The National Recovery Administration (NRA). Instead, we are told, with apparent approval, that radicals, unions, and populists pushed for more measures to improve life, which conservatives tried to obstruct.

When we get to the Age of Reagan, the College Board transforms itself from cheerleader to cynic. We are told the following, for example:

President Ronald Reagan, who initially rejected détente with increased defense spending, military action, and bellicose rhetoric, later developed a friendly relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, leading to significant arms reductions by both countries.

Reagan, then, was a flop-flopper at best and a hypocrite at worst. He succeeded in foreign policy only when he adopted the pacific “let’s all get along” approach favored by the left in these matters.

The College Board does not entertain the obvious possibility of a causal relationship between Reagan’s tough initial stand and the improved relationship that ensued when Gorbachev began the process of throwing in the towel.

There’s plenty more in Radosh’s essay, as well as in this analysis by Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars. Radosh concludes:

The newly proposed AP placement test curriculum is part of the New Left’s goal of making “a long march through the existing institutions” that would end with a new radicalized United States, on the road to socialism. By emphasizing hegemony in the sphere of culture, taking their cue from the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, they have now moved a further step ahead in that long march.

Is Radosh overeacting? I don’t think so.

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