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NC School Board Hears AP US History Dispute

Flickr/Seth Sawyers

This year a new Advanced Placement U.S. History course was introduced by the College Board.  It’s generated a lot of controversy across the country. The College Board says it promotes critical thinking, while critics say it emphasizes the country’s stumbles over its achievements. That debate played out before the North Carolina Board of Education Monday.

Larry Krieger is a man on a mission. He’s a retired New Jersey teacher who’s been telling boards of education across the country what’s wrong with the new AP US history course, namely, that it leaves a lot out, including American exceptionalism.    

He told the state board of education yesterday the idea that “we have been, are, and will be a force for good in the world, that we stand for democracy and freedom” is nowhere in the new framework.

North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year James Ford was in the audience and said that makes sense. 

“That is actually a conclusion, one that is relative to who is interpreting the history and so forth,” said Ford. “I can actually understand the premise of it being left out of the framework and then being the purpose of teachers to help students develop the skill set to interpret if that’s true.”

“It’s clear America has not always lived up to its ideals,” Krieger responded.

“At the same time, there’s nothing that’s wrong about America that can’t be remedied about what’s right about America.” 

He said leaving that out makes for an unbalanced view of history.

Similar complaints have been heard across the country. The Republican National Committee passed a resolution in August denouncing the new framework as a “radically revisionist view of American History.” State boards of education in Texas and South Carolina have also taken up the matter. 

Krieger argued the new framework neglects important documents like the Federalist Papers, Benjamin Franklin’s writings and the Mayflower Compact. 

Some of those documents weren’t mentioned in the original guidelines either. But they are still part of classes said John Williamson.

“The framework is just that, a framework,” said Williamson.

He’s with the College Board which develops AP courses.   The state board of education invited him to speak as well.                                                           

“It was never meant to be a curriculum.  It was never designed to include all the examples that a teacher would teach,” said Williamson. 

He said the actual words federalism and American exceptionalism may not appear in the framework, but those concepts are woven throughout it.  He said it’s clear to teachers their students need to know them.   

Board members asked a few questions, but saved their discussion for the board meeting later this week. 

Representative Craig Horn of Union County was there and expressed his concerns.  He sits on the House’s education committee. 

“How can I be assured as Mr. Everyone that these concepts, fundamental concepts of what makes America America are in fact going to be communicated?” asked Horn.

He says the General Assembly may take up the matter too. 

As for the state board of education, chairman Bill Cobey says there are no plans to eliminate AP U.S. History from North Carolina high schools. 

What could happen though is the state could require high school students to take a semester course focusing on the founding principles, in addition to AP U.S. History. 

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.