AP U.S. History framwork remains biased, as its treatment of immigration shows

The College Board’s 2014 framework for teaching AP U.S. History was a thoroughly leftist document. Under fire, the College Board issued a new framework in 2015. Unfortunately, as I argued here, the new version, though better, is not a great improvement.

John Fonte and our friend Stanley Kurtz illustrate the problem through a detailed look at how the 2015 framework treats the history of immigration in this country. Few will be surprised by their conclusion, which is that the College Board’s framework “downplays, omits, and distorts the significance of the assimilationist ethos in American history” and takes the side of those who are pushing the leftist pro-increasing-immigration position in the current debate over immigration policy.

A sure tip-off of the College Board’s leftist intentions comes in its frequent use of the word “migration” in place of “immigration.” When someone tries to change language on you, he is usually trying to stack, or reshuffle, the deck.

That’s the case here. Fonte and Kurtz write:

The word-picture associated with migration (and migratory populations) suggests groups of people moving from one place to another without necessarily sharing any strong ties to their new destination; it does not suggest powerful new bonds of political loyalty grounded in an immigrant’s transfer of allegiance from the “old country” to the United States.

This picture turns out to be just the one the College Board paints:

The latest version of the framework explains phenomena as diverse as the internal migration of African-Americans from the southern states to other parts of the United States, the westward movement of American settlers across the continent, and immigration to the United States from foreign countries as different forms of “migration.” As a result, the framework blurs, disguises, and simply fails to describe the central significance of the immigration-assimilation narrative in American history. . . .

Insofar as it treats of assimilation, the framework is off base. Discussing the latter half of the 19th century, the framework says: “Increasing public debates over assimilation and Americanization accompanied the growth of international migration. Many immigrants negotiated compromises between the cultures they brought and the culture they found in the United States.”

This is sheer distortion. As Fonte and Kurtz point out:

There was little debate over assimilation and Americanization in the American mainstream (whether among elites or popular opinion), and little “resistance” to assimilationist initiatives from immigrants. Presidents of all parties (Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft), immigrant leaders such as Louis Brandeis (the most prominent Jewish American immigrant of the period and a future Supreme Court justice), captains of industry, labor leaders, progressives, and the general public enthusiastically supported the Americanization of immigrants.

To be sure, there were a few proto-multiculturalist intellectuals, particularly Horace Kallen and Randolph Bourne, who objected to assimilation, but their voices were drowned out by the Americanization chorus. The “debate” on assimilation that the College Board is talking about began in the mid-1960s. There was not much debate on assimilation from 1865 to 1965.

To suggest otherwise is to project the modern multiculturalist ethos backwards. That, in turn, renders invisible a major development in American history: the breakup of the “melting pot” consensus after the 1960s and the corresponding rise of warring assimilationist and multiculturalist camps. Perhaps the College Board would prefer not to expose the shallow historical roots of its own multiculturalist perspective.

(Emphasis added)

The College Board’s framework also carries water for the pro-increasing-immigration side of the current debate. It does so in two ways. First, it presents all proponents of the 1920s legislation that limited immigration as irrational bigots. There were bigots among the proponents, to be sure. However, Fonte and Kurtz remind us:

[O]thers, including President Coolidge, future president Herbert Hoover, and mainstream business, labor, military, veteran, and African-American leaders (including major newspapers such as the Chicago Defender and spokesmen such as A. Philip Randolph) believed that immigration should be reduced to assist the assimilation of the large group of immigrants currently in the country, and to keep wages and living conditions good for those already here.

Second, just before taking note of our present-day immigration debates, the framework states that new immigrants have “supplied the economy with an important labor force.” That’s one way of looking at things, but there’s a flip side the College Board doesn’t mention:

[O]pponents of increasing immigration argue that the arrival of large numbers of low-skilled immigrants has resulted in wage losses and wage stagnation for American workers in the lower-skilled categories, including many African-Americans and Latino Americans.

By pointing to the alleged advantage of contemporary mass immigration while ignoring the alleged disadvantage, the College Board is taking sides in a contemporary political debate and attempting to indoctrinate high school students. This is outrageous.

Fonte and Kurtz conclude:

On grounds of both historical accuracy and the imperatives of civic education, we believe that far greater emphasis on America’s assimilationist ethos is called for. To the extent that others may disagree, that only strengthens the case for competition in Advanced Placement testing.

There should be no official version of American history. Only the creation of an advanced-placement testing company able to offer a true alternative to the College Board’s version of history can restore choice to states, school districts, and the voters they represent.

It is imperative that an alternative advanced-placement testing company be established.

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