Recently, the Oklahoma state legislature continued a national assault on U.S. History. Yes, I’m sure that caught your attention. It really isn’t an assault on U.S. History per se. It is an assault on Advanced Placement U.S. History as the proposal would have them defund it. In plain English, that means that public schools in Oklahoma would not offer it from here on out. Now, for those of you that grew up a while back and/or may not have children, this may not seem like a big deal. Allow me to explain why this is a big deal.
AP classes have been big since the 1990s. Essentially, the idea is to teach the class at the college level and allow students to take an exam at the end of the year to potentially get college credit. If a student scores a 3 (test scaled between 1 and 5) or higher then most colleges will give them six hours of credit for history. Even if a student scores a 1 or 2 then colleges still will look more favorably at their application if they see AP courses on their transcript. Occasionally, you see students earn so much credit that they enter college as sophomores because of the amounts of credits they earn in AP classes.
I currently teach special education officially, but they put me in English classes. Apparently, someone is under the impression that I can write a little bit. Go figure. However, history, government, and economics were the first classes I taught and ultimately my first love. So, why is there a grand assault on history? The reality is that it isn’t so much an assault on history as a whole, but history from a certain perspective. They think AP classes teach too much about negativity when it comes to U.S. events. We shouldn’t focus so much on slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, Manifest Destiny, or Internment Camps. Those things make us look bad. These folks are looking at U.S. History through the prism of Christianity.
We are a Christian nation. Most of us are Christians and most of the founding fathers were Christians. Therefore, we should view U.S. History as a particularly Christian endeavor. Unfortunately, some events don’t necessarily reflect well when put up to that test. Those events can apparently be glossed over. I have no problem with the Christian perspective. I’m Christian myself, but I would hesitate to say that my faith necessarily dictates how I look at our history.
The unfortunate reality is that no matter what perspective we come from, there are moments in our history that will challenge that perspective. Even if we come from a progressive perspective, events like the Internment Camps would hedge that bet when looking a progressive icon like Franklin Roosevelt. Instead of ignoring that event, we should meet it head on. It proves that even our heroes are fallible and that we should hold our heroes accountable most of all. It is easy to be vigilant against the opposition. It’s harder when it’s your own guy (or gal).
We can look at an example from today. Remember, when Guantanamo Bay was so immoral and was supposed to be closed? What happened there? Did Barack Obama change his mind? Did he realize something he didn’t know before he became president? Maybe he just thought it wasn’t a priority. Maybe he thought we would forget. Based on our reactions, I guess we did. Wrong doesn’t become right based on who is president. Right doesn’t become wrong when our heroes become our enemies.
Our kids deserve to hear about it all. They should talk about it and study it. They should know how people rationalized it back then, because if they listen closely enough, they will hear those same things again. We can fool ourselves into thinking anything is okay until we see the results. The great thing about history is that we can see those results before our very eyes if we bother to look. We don’t have to go through it again. I seem to remember a number of times when a civilization sought to limit the knowledge of its citizens. Some burned books. Others simply controlled the information they heard. We can study those situations to see how they turned out. It might even make a pretty good project in a history class.