Biased Statements in the New APUSH Framework

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Biased Statements in the New APUSH Framework

by Larry Krieger

A version of this was originally published on August 19, 2014 by the Heartland Institute at Heartland.org and is reprinted with permission.

founding fathersThe College Board claims that its redesigned Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) Framework provides teachers and their students with “balanced” coverage of American history. But a growing chorus of parents, concerned citizens, journalists, and academic historians disagree.

Here is a list of 29 statements reprinted from the College Board Framework. These statements offer compelling evidence that the Framework provides a biased and deeply flawed view of the American experience. Page numbers refer to the APUSH Framework and the “note” following some is an explanation of the inadequacy and agenda-driven bias of what the College Board proposes students be taught.

  1. Teachers can explore the roots of the modern environmental movement in the Progressive Era and New Deal, as well as debate the underlying and proximate causes of environmental catastrophes arising from pesticide use and offshore oil drilling. (Pages 12 – 13)
  2. Many Europeans developed a belief in white superiority to justify their subjugation of Africans and American Indians, using several different rationales. (Page 35)
  3. Unlike Spanish, French, and Dutch colonies, which accepted intermarriage and cross-racial sexual unions with native peoples (and, in Spain’s case, with enslaved Africans), English colonies attracted both males and females who rarely intermarried with either native peoples or Africans, leading to the development of a rigid racial hierarchy. (Page 36)
  4. Reinforced by a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority, the British system enslaved black people in perpetuity, altered African gender and kinship relationships in the colonies and was one factor that led the British colonists into violent confrontations with native peoples. (Page 36)
  5. The New England colonies, founded primarily by Puritans, seeking to establish a community of like-minded religious believers, developed a close-knit, homogeneous society and — aided by favorable environmental conditions — a thriving mixed economy of agriculture and commerce. (Page 37. Note that this is the Framework’s sole statement about the New England colonies. It omits the Pilgrims, Mayflower Compact, Winthrop’s “City Upon a Hill,” Roger Williams and religious toleration, New England town meetings, the birth of democratic institutions, and much more.)
  6. The demographically, religiously, and ethnically diverse middle colonies supported a flourishing export economy based on cereal crops . . . (Page 37. Note that this is the Framework’s sole statement about the Middle Colonies. It omits William Penn, the Quakers, Pennsylvania policy of religious toleration and the fact that its economic prosperity attracted a diverse mix of ethnic and religious groups.)
  7. The colonies along the southernmost Atlantic coast and the British islands in the West Indies took advantage of long growing seasons by using slave labor to develop economies based on staple crops; in some cases, enslaved Africans constituted the majority of the population. (Page 38. Note that slavery is the sole focus. This omits the House of Burgesses, the Maryland Act of Religious Toleration, and much more.)
  8. European colonization efforts in North America stimulated cultural contact and intensified conflict between the various groups of colonizers and native peoples. (Page 38. Note that this “Key Concept” establishes the Framework’s dominant theme that American history is really the story of identity groups and conflicts.)
  9. By supplying American Indian allies with deadlier weapons and alcohol, and by rewarding Indian military actions, Europeans helped increase the intensity and destructiveness of American Indian warfare. (Page 39. Note the Europeans are portrayed as destructive predators.)
  10. The presence of slavery and the impact of colonial wars stimulated the growth of ideas on race in this Atlantic system, leading to the emergence of racial stereotyping and the development of strict racial categories among British colonists, which contrasted with Spanish and French acceptance of racial gradations. (Page 40)
  11. Although George Washington’s Farewell Address warned about the dangers of divisive political parties and permanent foreign alliances, European conflict and tensions with Britain and France fueled increasingly bitter partisan debates throughout the 1790s. (Page 44. This is the Framework’s sole reference to George Washington.)
  12. The colonists’ belief in the superiority of republican self-government based on the natural rights of the people found its clearest American expression in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and in the Declaration of Independence. (Page 44. This is the Framework’s sole reference to the Declaration of Independence. Note that it actually follows Washington’s Farewell Address. Although the Framework stresses the skill of historical causation, the document contains numerous examples of events that are not presented in chronological order.)
  13. Teachers have the flexibility to use examples such as the following: corridos, architecture of Spanish missions, vaqueros. (Page 47. Note that the Framework does have space for these topics but cannot find the space to discuss Washington’s career and the principles of the Declaration of Independence.)
  14. Many white Americans in the South asserted their regional identity through pride in the institution of slavery, insisting that the federal government should defend their institution. (Page 50)
  15. Resistance to initiatives for democracy and inclusion included proslavery arguments, rising xenophobia, anti-black sentiments in political and popular culture, and restrictive anti-Indian policies. (Page 50. Note that the Framework omits both Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy. This biased statement reinforces the Framework’s consistently negative portrayal of the American experience.)
  16. The U.S. sought dominance over the North American continent through a variety of means, including military actions, judicial decisions, and diplomatic efforts. (Page 53. This is how the Framework describes the Monroe Doctrine and the annexation of Texas.)
  17. The idea of Manifest Destiny, which asserted U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere and supported U.S. expansion westward, was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority, and helped to shape the era’s political debates. (Page 55. Note that generations of American students have been taught that Manifest Destiny expressed America’s mission to spread its democratic institutions and technology across the continent. This revisionist definition clearly expresses the Framework’s negative biases.)
  18. States rights, nullification, and racist stereotyping provided the foundation for the Southern defense of slavery as a positive good. (Page 57)
  19. Lincoln’s election on a free soil platform . . . Lincoln’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. (Page 58. These are the Framework’s sole references to President Lincoln. Note that the Framework omits Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.)
  20. Business interests battled conservationists as the latter sought to protect sections of unspoiled wilderness through the establishment of national parks and other conservationist and preservationist measures. (Page 63. Note the one-sided portrayal of “business interests.” The Framework never uses the terms free enterprise or entrepreneur.)
  21. As transcontinental railroads were completed, bringing more settlers west, U.S. military actions, the destruction of the buffalo, the confinement of American Indians to reservations, and assimilationist policies reduced the number of American Indians and threatened native culture and identity. (Page 64. The construction of the transcontinental railroads was a major American achievement. Note that it is portrayed in an entirely negative light.)
  22. A number of critics challenged the dominant corporate ethic in the United States and sometimes capitalism itself, offering alternate visions of the good society through utopianism and the Social Gospel. (Page 65. Note that the Framework consistently negative portrayal of capitalism. This is the only time the term capitalism appears in the Framework.)
  23. Although the American Expeditionary Force played a relatively limited role in the war . . . (Page 70. Note that this is how the Framework describes America’s contribution to the Allied cause in World War I.)
  24. The mass mobilization of American society to supply troops for the war effort and a workforce on the home front ended the Great Depression and provided opportunities for women and minorities to improve their socioeconomic positions. Wartime experiences, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values. (Page 71. Note that the Framework’s complete coverage of World War II is contained in these two sentences. The Framework completely omits all mention of American military commanders, battles, and the valor of our servicemen and women who ended the long night of Nazi oppression. Also note that the Framework completely omits the Holocaust.)
  25. The United States sought to “contain” Soviet-dominated communism through a variety of measures, including military engagements in Korea and Vietnam. (Page 72. Note that the Framework covers both the Korean War and the Vietnam War in one sentence.)
  26. Activists began to question society’s assumptions about gender and to call for social and economic equality for women and for gays and lesbians. (Page 74)
  27. Teachers have the flexibility to use examples such as the following: Students for a Democratic Society, Black Panthers. (Page 75. Note that the Framework omits Rosa Parks and Dr. King, but does have room for the SDS and the Black Panthers.)
  28. President Ronald Reagan, who initially rejected détente with increased defense spending, military action, and bellicose rhetoric, later developed a friendly relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, leading to significant arms reductions by both countries. (Page 79. Note that this is the Framework’s simplistic explanation for how and why the Cold War ended.)
  29. Demographic changes intensified debates about gender roles, family structures, and racial and national identity. (Page 81. Note that this is the Framework’s concluding statement. The College Board authors then state that teachers have the flexibility to use examples such as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” debate.)

Seminal Documents Omitted from APUSH

  1. The Mayflower Compact
  2. The Northwest Ordinance
  3. Federalist Paper Number 10
  4. Frederick Douglass’s Independence Day Speech at Rochester
  5. Excerpts from the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, and other Transcendentalist writers
  6. Alexis de Tocqueville — excerpts from Democracy in America
  7. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address
  8. Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”
  9. Woodrow Wilson, “Peace Without Victory” speech
  10. Theodore Roosevelt, “The New Nationalism” speech
  11. Excerpts from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath describing the Dust Bowl
  12. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The Four Freedoms” speech
  13. Harry S. Truman, “The Truman Doctrine” speech
  14. George Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”
  15. John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
  16. Dr. King, “I Have a Dream” Speech and Letter from Birmingham City Jail
  17. Lyndon B. Johnson, Speech to Congress on Voting Rights

Larry Krieger has had a long career as an AP teacher and author. He has taught in surban, rural, and suburban public schools for over 30 years.