Oklahoma Bans Advanced Placement U.S. History – Many See RED . . . Minus White and Blue
Sometimes our kids drive us so stark raving mad that we’re tempted to auction them off to the highest bidder. Other times, they make us so proud that there are no words for the intense joy that comes from their maturation into adulthood, from speaking their own mind, and from asserting values that we’ve drilled into them over the years, which we never really thought stuck, but amazingly somehow must have.
I recently had a moment of joy and chest-aching pride as my oldest, Logan, took to Facebook to advocate for the continuation of Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) throughout the country. It seems that the state legislature in Oklahoma recently took a vote, and the overwhelming majority of congresspeople decided to do away with APUSH on the grounds that the course seeks to highlight the negative aspects of U.S. history, which, according to them, shouldn’t be taught because it’s “unpatriotic.”
To take things even further, a group of lawmakers in Oklahoma called the “Black Robe Regiment” are moving to outlaw all Advanced Placement (AP) classes since they argue that “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.”
SAY WHAT . . . AGAIN?!
So, we’re supposed to just continue to sweep the nasty stuff under the carpet because if we don’t, we’re offending our country and God? Really? What kind of logic is that? I hate to tell them, but God has no doubt been highly disturbed already by the stuff we’ve swept under the carpet. You know, little things like arms deals with terrorists, Japanese internment camps, and well, how about maybe Orphan Trains? Plus, can’t he see right through carpets anyway?
If you would like to read the whole article on the Oklahoma legislative vote, just click here: Oklahoma APUSH Legislative Vote.
Logan read the above article and saw RED. He loves seeking the truth, standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, and he adores everything about history, especially APUSH.
Instead of relaying bits and pieces of what he wrote, let me just take you right to the source.
Whether you agree or disagree with his stance, I challenge you not to admire his passion.
I like to think I try to avoid politicizing things on social media, but I’m making an exception tonight.
In Oklahoma, the state legislature has voted to ban APUSH from high school classrooms. They say it only teaches the bad parts of our history, they say it’s unpatriotic and revisionist, they say it’s a bad class and needs to be removed from American high schools. That is so ridiculously untrue, and it INFURIATES me, so I’m going to try to prove them wrong here, and state my case for what I believe is one of the best classes in the high school curriculum.
1.) “It only teaches the bad parts.”
History is a tough beast to tackle. America is a relatively young country, but we have a lot of history to cover, and APUSH does a very good job of covering it, from colonial to post-9/11 times. We talk about every era, including those often skimmed over in other classes. What that means is that, for many kids, APUSH is their first exposure to some of the bad things America has done: WWII era Japanese internment camps, smallpox blankets given to Native Americans, decades of congressional thumb twiddling and doing nothing to stop slavery, massacres at home and abroad, arms deals with terrorists, assassinations of political figures around the world, and the list goes on and on. So yes, APUSH does talk about the bad parts. But we also talk about the good parts: the Berlin Airlift, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Sherman Act, the Great Society and so many more. Here’s the thing, if you skip the bad parts of history, if you deny that the bad parts happened (which, in banning APUSH, Oklahoma legislators are attempting to do) then you are invalidating the struggles of countless people who died fighting for honesty, integrity, and liberty – the very ideals this country should stand for. If you deny the bad parts, you are refusing to rectify them, refusing to apologize for them, refusing to LEARN from them, and you are willfully making the choice to lead the country down a darker road in the future. It is only by shedding light on the darkest parts of our shared past that we can begin to reconcile ourselves to the people we have wronged, and fix our mistakes, and make sure they never happen again. It takes knowledge, forgiveness and wisdom to build a brighter future. APUSH is an important part in giving kids the building blocks to make decisions and do just that – make a better future.
2.) “It’s unpatriotic and revisionist.”
One of the lessons that stuck with me from APUSH actually came from a Vietnam War veteran who substitute-taught the class for a few days (he was an APUSH teacher for many years as well). During the Pledge of Allegiance, he refused to stand. When we asked him about it, he said something along these lines: “I’ve seen how your generation treats patriotism. I’ve seen the standing ovations at sporting events, the flags at half mast, heard the “Star Spangled Banner” and all that, but that is not real patriotism. You’ve left veterans to die without proper care, and forgotten about the people who sacrificed everything for you – you’re ignoring the people who need a helping hand the most. That’s not real patriotism. That is false patriotism and it needs to stop.”
(I’m paraphrasing, of course. It’s been months since he said that and I’ve forgotten the exact words.)
To me, what those legislators are advocating is false patriotism, the idea of a perfect America as the Greatest Country On Earth and that We Can Do No Wrong. But we are human, our government is human, and we make mistakes, some big, some small. Patriotism for me is something different, and it’s something I struggle to do every day; it’s standing up for what’s right, what is true and honest and just. It’s fighting for the little guy, the voiceless, the trampled-upon masses. It’s making sure every single person has the chance to be the best they can be. It’s making the country better, one act of kindness and one person at a time. I will not hesitate to call out the government for what I see as unjust, and if you know me, you’ve heard me talk about Net Neutrality and the NSA and plenty of other things that I think need to stop. But do I consider myself patriotic? Yes, I do, because I believe in America’s capacity to be great, to rectify her mistakes and stand as a beacon of hope and opportunity. APUSH, for me, embodies that patriotism – you acknowledge and learn from the past to make a better future. As for revisionism, it’s important to understand that our perspective on past events changes daily, and it can take years, decades, even centuries before events are distant enough for us to sever emotional ties and look upon them objectively. With that in mind, we spent countless days talking about how every event has been viewed at different points in time, we talked about different schools of historical perspective, and we addressed controversy whenever it appeared. There was no attempt to cover up past viewpoints, in fact they were brought up and discussed for their pros and cons. We ended every chapter with a day or two dedicated to that discussion, and I looked forward to those days because it was fascinating to me. There wasn’t any revisionism, just history in the clearest way we are able to present it.
3.) “It is a bad class and should be taken out of high school.”
Is APUSH hard? Yes. You read a lot, you take a lot of notes, you do projects and independent research and you stretch your brain outside your comfort zone. Is it bad? To me, a bad class doesn’t teach you, it chews you up and spits you out without having learned anything important. If you take a bad class, you’ll know because a week into the summer, every bit of information will have drained out your ears and you won’t remember a thing because nothing you learned was important. APUSH teaches you. It makes you confront harsh realities about the world, it makes you work and collaborate and learn in new and unique ways. It teaches you life lessons, study habits, and it gives you context for understanding current events. It explains complex issues and their roots, unravels the maze of politics and shines light on the history of our government. Its spirit is something we should all challenge ourselves to model our lives after, not something to be thrown away because it makes you face the truth, even when the truth is ugly. APUSH is the opposite of a bad class. It is a great class, filled with great students, taught by an amazing teacher. Maybe that’s not true down in Oklahoma, but at our high school it is, and I will fight tooth and nail for other children across the country to have the chance to learn what I learned, to challenge themselves and be given the tools they need to be better citizens in the next few years.
When you tamper with education, you tamper with the minds of a generation. When you tamper with history classes, you shape the past, the truth, the framework on which all political and social discourse is hung for those children. I know this doesn’t affect you or me directly, but if one day I hear about Illinois lawmakers trying to pull this, you can bet any money I’ll be down in Springfield with a megaphone and a petition. Cleaning the ugly parts out of history classes is flat out lying to an entire generation; it’s immoral, and it’s the first step down a road on which I refuse to travel.
If you’d like to point out anything I said that was untrue, please do so in the comments.
Thanks for reading and have a nice night!
For the record, he was deluged with responses from kids and adults alike who agreed with his stance.
So, what’s your take? Should we sweep the nasty bits of our country’s history under the carpet, or teach the not-so-pleasant truth along with the good stuff?
By the way, it’s okay to disagree. I think it’s interesting to hear other points-of-view. Just please keep it civil.