Lawmakers in Oklahoma are out to whitewash Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History courses, and if they succeed the state's students will pay the price.
The measure, HB 1380, was introduced in February by Rep. Dan Fisher (R-Yukon). If passed, it would end funding for AP U.S. History classes and require the Oklahoma Department of Education to scrutinize the AP curriculum. Although it only addresses history classes, it could be extended to other AP courses if it passes.
The proposal has already cleared one hurdle toward becoming law. In February, the House Common Education Committee voted 11-4 along party lines to approve the measure, which Fisher claims is necessary because the current curriculum emphasizes "what is bad about America."
Critics say this bill could do tremendous harm to the state's students when it comes time for them to apply to college. AP classes are college-style courses offered at both public and private high schools. Students planning to attend college normally take them in order to prove that they are prepared to handle upper-level academics. Many universities will even give credit toward a degree for students who do well in high school AP courses.
As top colleges across the country have become increasingly selective, taking AP classes is essentially required of any student who hopes to attend one of the nation's elite private or public colleges.
Religious Right activists in several states have attacked the newest version of the AP history course lately, arguing that it portrays the country in a negative light and fails to teach "American exceptionalism."
Many historians say that the course accurately portrays U.S. history and assert that critics want unpleasant incidents from the past to be whitewashed. Supporters have also praised the course for focusing more on critical thinking skills and less on rote memorization.
For example, the course guidelines state that: "European exploration and conquest were fueled by a desire for new sources of wealth, increased power and status, and converts to Christianity. "
The guidelines also point out that the Founding Fathers did the country no favors by declining to deal with the issue of slavery.
"The constitutional framers postponed a solution to the problems of slavery and the slave trade, setting the stage for recurring conflicts over these issues in later years," it reads.
The history curriculum even brings up more recent painful subjects, such as the Vietnam War, and notes the...