Editor's note: Larry Krieger, a retired AP U.S. History teacher from PA, coauthored this piece.
High-school students in Jefferson County, Colorado, are outraged about censorship of their history curriculum. In a recent protest, one student carried a sign reading, "Teaching Partial History is a lie." One might conclude that these students are upset over the College Board's recent rewrite of the Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) course, which excludes reams of information about their country that they would have learned under the previous APUSH course. But no – they're upset that some adults want to return to the more accurate and complete course. And the College Board is cheering them on in their adolescent confusion.
What's going on here?
This is merely the next step in the College Board's attempt to undermine the constitutional authority of state and local officials to determine curriculum for their states and districts. The unelected, unaccountable College Board endorses a radical leftist view of the world, beginning with U.S. history, and has no qualms about using naive schoolchildren as pawns to promote its vision.
With its new APUSH course, the College Board has decreed that there should be a national history curriculum, and that the leftist professors and teachers on its committees should dictate what that curriculum will be. Gone is the previous APUSH course, which relied on state history standards for its content. In its place is an APUSH Framework that, in the words of James Madison scholar Ralph Ketcham, paints "a portrait of America as a dystopian society – one riddled with racism, violence, hypocrisy, greed, imperialism, and injustice."
This course does not meet with the approval of the school board of Jefferson County. Apparently the school board believes a course in American history should at least mention the Founders, including the legendary American after whom their county was named. But this view grates on the teenaged protestors who, egged on by a teachers' union with its own agenda, are loudly asserting their right to historical ignorance.
Amid this tempest rises the College Board that, in an unprecedented and quite astonishing turn of events, has weighed in on the side of the protestors and against the elected school board. "The College Board's Advanced Placement Program," it intones, "supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member's request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course." A school board's action to uphold its state history standards against usurpation by unelected, unaccountable outsiders is now considered "censorship." Presumably it's not "censorship" to banish from an American history course the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, military heroes, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King, Jr., and on and on.
Who anointed the College Board the arbiter of what students should learn about American history? Under what authority does the College Board presume to dictate to elected officials what shall be taught in their schools? If parents and other taxpayers had any doubts that the College Board wants to replace state and local control with its own agenda, those doubts are now resolved.
Flexing the muscle it has developed during its century-plus of monopoly, the College Board warns darkly that schools and districts must do as they're told. If they dare to disagree with any "essential concepts" of an AP course (for example, if they insist on teaching America the Exceptional rather than America the Ordinary), the College Board will strip its "AP" designation from the course.
Fine. It should be crystal clear now that the College Board monopoly must be broken. There is no reason one company – especially one populated by apparent ideologues who oppose the constitutional structure concerning authority over education – should have an iron grip over college advanced-placement credit. State boards of education must act to empower competitors to develop their own courses and tests. Such initiatives may acquaint the arrogant mandarins of the College Board with a truly American concept "censored" from the APUSH Framework – the free market.