Postmodern Conservative

America’s History

Scholars against the Proposed APUSH Framework

From an open letter signed by a group of 40 or so distinguished academics, including Postmodern Conservative’s own James Caesar, on the new AP U.S. History Framework proposed by the College Board:

The new framework is organized around such abstractions as “identity,” “peopling,” “work, exchange, and technology,” and “human geography” while downplaying essential subjects, such as the sources, meaning, and development of America’s ideals and political institutions, notably the Constitution. Elections, wars, diplomacy, inventions, discoveries—all these formerly central subjects tend to dissolve into the vagaries of identity-group conflict. The new framework scrubs away all traces of what used to be the chief glory of historical writing—vivid and compelling narrative—and reduces history to an bloodless interplay of abstract and impersonal forces. Gone is the idea that history should provide a fund of compelling stories about exemplary people and events. No longer will students hear about America as a dynamic and exemplary nation, flawed in many respects, but whose citizens have striven through the years toward the more perfect realization of its professed ideals. The new version of the test will effectively marginalize important ways of teaching about the American past, and force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a perspective that self-consciously seeks to de-center American history and subordinate it to a global and heavily social-scientific perspective.

Boring, bad, and more likely to inflame racial tensions than the reverse.  Wonderful.  The National Association of Scholars provided logistics for the group letter, as they explain here.  Further information about the framework opposed can be found on their site.  One more quote from the letter:

…with the new 2014 framework, the College Board has put forward a lengthy 134-page document which…centralizes control, deemphasizes content, and promotes a particular interpretation of American history. This interpretation downplays American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective.

Note that the College Board is expected to issue a revised version later this summer, which will respond to the criticisms it’s received, perhaps even with non-cosmetic changes. 

Note also that the group is asking for more academics to sign.  It would be particularly helpful if they could get more (published and tenured) scholars of American History signing this, so spread the word. 

Note finally that among the many distinguished signatories is Ralph Ketchum, whose early opposition to the new framework was described by Stanley Kurtz here on NRO. That article elicited this description of mine, in the comments:

A couple complimentary observations about Ketcham, for those not familiar with his work. Despite what his huge James Madison biography might imply, Ketcham is not exactly a rah-rah Founders guy, and, he is a multiculturalist in the best and fullest sense. He is the editor of one of the more useful (and inexpensive) collections of Anti-Federalist writings, writings which are all about why the Constitution is flawed, often because it is not democratic enough. He is also the author of The Idea of Democracy in the Modern Era, a book notable for its erudite explorations of what western liberal democracy might have to learn from Chinese and Japanese political thinkers. He’s also (too) critical of Christianity and its impact on politics in that book. So, liberal shapers of the new framework, take heed–this criticism of your project is coming from a scholar critical of the Founders, of Christianity, and of taking your key political principles only from the Western heritage.

My thanks to Michelle Malkin for calling attention to the open letter on the NRO main page.  

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