Republican state Sen. Dolores Gresham of Tennessee. / The Tennessean
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Advanced Placement U.S. History could become a new education battleground in Tennessee after a pair of Republican state senators alleged the course leaves out key founding fathers, principles of the Declaration of Independence and iconic American figures.
It mirrors attacks waged by conservatives nationally. And it comes a year after the same two senators took on social studies textbooks they said were biased, a push that resulted in lawmakers getting new say on who sits on the state's textbook commission.
Republicans Dolores Gresham, chairwoman of the state Senate Education Committee, and Mike Bell, chairman of the Government Operations Committee, have requested that the Tennessee State Board of Education conduct a review of new framework and materials used in the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. History.
AP courses, overseen by The College Board, a private company that manages the SAT test, are elective high school classes that cover a range of subjects, allowing students to earn college credit if they score high enough on end-of-year exams.
The Republican National Committee earlier this month came out against the new framework The College Board has turned to for AP U.S. History - "APUSH," as it is commonly called. Changes are reflected in final exams for the first time this year, but the RNC has called for a one-year delay. A column in the National Review earlier this week contends it will "force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a leftist perspective."
"There are many concerns with the new APUSH framework, not the least of which is that it pushes a revisionist interpretation of historical facts," echoed Gresham in a statement on Tuesday. "The items listed as required knowledge have some inclusions which are agenda-driven, while leaving out basic facts that are very important to our nation's history."
College Board officials have rejected such charges. But the two Tennessee senators want the State Board of Education to provide a public forum to let parents speak on the matter.
David Sevier, deputy director for the State Board of Education, said the board would likely follow the request. What the review would look like is unclear.
Gresham and Bell - copying much of the language used in a resolution approved by the RNC - have alleged that the new AP U.S. History framework included "little or no discussion of the founding fathers and the principles of the Declaration of Independence." Moreover, they say, the framework negatively portrays settlers' explorations of America, American involvement in World War II, and the development of and victory in the Cold War.
"In addition, the APUSH framework excludes discussion of the U.S. military, battles, commanders, and heroes, as well as mentioning many other individuals and events that shaped the nation's history like American icons Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, George Washington Carver, and Dr. Martin Luther King," a letter to the State Board of Education reads. "The requirements do not include the study of the Holocaust."
The College Board, in response to criticism from the RNC, took an unprecedented step of releasing a sample AP U.S. History exam. Educators who authored the framework issued a letter this month to "correct recent uninformed criticisms that have been made in the press."
David Coleman, president and CEO of The College Board, in an Aug. 11 letter took particular strong exceptions to the World World II and founding father allegations.
"We hope that the release of this exam will address the principled confusion that the new framework produced. The concerns are based on a significant misunderstanding. Just like the previous framework, the new framework does not remove individuals or events that have been taught by AP teachers in prior years. Instead, it is just a framework, requiring teachers to populate it with content required by their local standards and priorities."
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Read the original story: GOP senators in Tenn. target 'revisionist' AP history