New changes, again, to APUSH curriculum

Andrea Gieseman, Contributing Writer

In 2014, the College Board made a huge and bold change in AP US History’s curriculum. Realizing their original course outline was massive and that it was causing teachers to rush through big ideas, they cut out a lot of the material.

This new rewrite sparked a lot of controversy. According to sources from NPR, many called the redesign “biased, ” “unpatriotic” and said it had “negative ideas about America.” Critics of the course redesign, including the Republican National Committee, believed it didn’t properly highlight American exceptionalism. Many heroic Americans, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, were no longer apart of the course.

Bennett Sproat, a Glenbard West senior who took the class with the 2014 rewrite, said Parks and King “[had] a huge impact on American society, but we almost glazed over civil rights last year.”

In several states, policymakers debated over how to change the course or whether to continue to teach the class at all. The class is currently banned in Oklahoma. Reacting to all of this critique, the College Board released a new edition of the course in 2015, which they called a “reformatted and clarified concept outline” with a “clearer and more balanced approach.”

This edition has several new changes, such as more neutral language and a different writing template. The class is still less focused on straight context and is more debate-oriented.

Mr. Staron, an APUSH teacher at West, said, “Facts are still an important part of the course, but it’s less on facts only.”

This change affects both learning and test taking as Mr. Staron also tells his students that “multiple choice questions are not just going to be word-for-word out of the book; choices might require actual thought.”

In regard to the previous controversies, the 2015 rewrite now emphasizes American victories more than the 2014 version. Current students are even noticing the changes this early in the year. The birth of America and its founding fathers and documents were only briefly touched upon in the 2014 outline. However, now current Glenbard students are learning about it in depth.

“It’s October, and we’re still learning about our first presidents and [APUSH students] are now well aware of how the country was founded,” said current APUSH student Maggie Rohrer.

The change in the curriculum has sparked the discussion over how the course should be focused.  According to USA Today‘s article, “College Board changes AP US History curriculum again,” “The latest curriculum has been criticized as being whitewashed, downplaying some darker points in American history.”

Rohrer believes, “The idea of taking out a lot of American downfalls seems kind of pointless. It’s a part of our history. It may not be a good part of it, but it’s still history regardless and students should be taught the actual history of America not a lighter more positive approach.”

Bennett Sproat added, “To me, the change seems something towards the negative side because I think we need to know what we truly did do in order to own up to it and improve in the future.”