For those of you that don’t know anything about College Board or the recent protests from the Texas State Board of Education, I would normally provide you a link to an article explaining the whole situation, but as it turns out, there are few good articles that do a thorough job of pointing out the real issues of the situation, and almost none that are from College Board’s point of view (probably because they don’t know what to say in their defense). So, before we get started, here’s the gist.
College Board is the
corporation organization that controls the writing, production, and distribution of SAT tests, AP courses, and basically any other acronym that makes your kid’s life miserable in high school. AP (Advanced Placement) courses are designed to work like a college course, and if you take the test at the end of the year and pass you could potentially get college credit. College Board is in charge of crafting the curriculum for each AP course, as well as the writing, grading, distributing, and yes, selling of the tests. These tests are paid for either by the state or the school or the whatever, and millions are distributed every year. Add that to the number of SATs being taken each year and yeah, College Board is pretty damn well off, I’d say.
And let’s make one thing perfectly clear: these are not college courses. They may have similar content and workload to a college course, but they are high school courses taught by high school teachers to high school students in high school classrooms. That’s not to say the teachers don’t do a good job – the two very best teachers I’ve ever had were AP high school teachers. But that doesn’t mean they’re like college courses.
Last year, College Board released a new AP US History curriculum that would go into use for the 2014-2015 school year. The curriculum is basically a guideline for what ends up on the AP test at the end of the year. The changes they made to the curriculum were basically to give the content a more thematic approach, asking students to look at the patterns and implications of historical events rather than just historical events. The new curriculum has sparked controversy, however, as many conservative organizations think it’s too liberal and portrays a much too negative view of American history. In response, the Texas State Board of Education has decided to (somehow) do away with the new curriculum and provide what they see is a better, state led course. Ha.
Now, I’m keeping true to my word and I’m not going all political on you guys. I think this issue goes beyond partisan politics. It’s about our crummy education system, and as someone who only recently left the confines of public school, I can safely say I’ve had first hand experience. This debate between College Board and Texas isn’t really even a debate, because I’ve seen basically nothing from College Board to defend themselves or their curriculum.
I want to make another thing perfectly clear: I am not pro-Texas or pro-College Board. I have no love for either side. And in order to articulate what I think of this matter, and the problems I see with some people’s approaches to it, I’d like to provide a reenactment of how I believe the discussions of this issue probably happened. Sort of. So, without further ado, I present to you Educationated: Texas v. College Board.
Note: Those who do not understand the words “humor” and “hyperbole” should not read the following. Thank you.
Mediator: All right, everyone, so in light of recent protests issued by the Texas State Board of Education concerning College Board’s new AP US History curriculum, I’ve decided to call together a meeting to see if we can’t…resolve the issues at hand. College Board, why don’t we start with you. What is your response to the accusation that your new course is politically charged?
Texas: Politically charged my Don’t-Mess-With-Texas ass. Your new course is leftist, unpatriotic, negative, and borderline Communist.
Mediator: Texas, why don’t we let College Board go first…
College Board: Well, I like, started getting all these complaints from historians and history teachers that like, the old course wasn’t a good way to teach American history or something, like, they were saying kids were just learning for the test or whatever, so I told them they could like, change it into whatever.
Mediator: So you had historians and history teachers write the course?
College Board: Well, yeah. I wasn’t going to do it myself.
Mediator: So, you weren’t at all concerned about some of the problems people are now pointing out?
College Board: I mean, they told me it would like, make the same amount of money so I wasn’t worried or anything.
Mediator: …okay, um, Texas? What’s your take?
Texas: This new course is nothing but a breeding ground for future communists. It is inaccurate, negative, and riddled with leftist philosophy, and it is poisoning the minds of our children. The state of Texas won’t stand for it.
Mediator: Could you perhaps provide specific examples of things you found that worried you?
Texas: Certainly! It spreads all these lies about our country’s Founders! Instead of saying that our Founding Fathers were brilliant, brave, revolutionary men who shaped the foundation of this country and brought us liberty, freedom, and hamburgers, it calls them slaveowners or something. Christopher Columbus is a madman instead of a visionary! And the Pilgrims – you won’t believe what they did with the Pilgrims! They totally forgot the Pilgrims and Indians were friends!
Mediator: College Board, do you have anything to say to that?
Texas: You are scum, College Board. That’s what I’ll say to you. Texas is going to put an end to this blasphemy. We’re reshaping your course to fit our state-led guidelines and we’ll teach our Texan children real American history.
College Board: Whatever.
Texas: You mean you don’t care if we change it? You’re not going to fight us?
College Board: I mean, California like, put up this big stink about the SAT a few years ago and we like, changed it and it was no big deal.
Mediator: Care to explain how this is “no big deal”?
Texas: Yes, explain how messing up American history is no big deal, you festering pile of cow turds!
College Board: Look. Here’s the deal. Every year, a certain number of tests gets like, distributed to every school and then we like, get money. As long as kids are still like, taking the tests it doesn’t really matter what’s on it.
Mediator: It doesn’t?
Texas: You have no right to be writing standardized tests! You should let states like Texas write standardized tests! Ours are so much better!
Mediator: Look, I don’t think this is getting anywhere…why don’t we call in a third party?
Texas: Who else would we possibly need to hear from?
College Board: Like, seriously, no one else is involved.
Teacher: Hi, guys.
College Board: Um…like, who are you?
Teacher: I’m a high school history teacher.
Texas: You’re a what?
Teacher: A high school history teacher. Look, why don’t we –
Texas: Why do we need to hear from you?
College Board: Yeah, how does this like, involve you?
Teacher: Maybe because I’m teaching the course you’re all arguing over? Look, I just want to provide my perspective on the course. Is that okay?
Mediator: Go ahead.
Teacher: Well, it was my understanding that the course was changed not in a political manner, but simply to enable students and teachers to look at historical events more critically.
Texas: Critically? They plain got the facts wrong!
Teacher: Really? In what way?
Texas: They call the Founding Fathers slaveowners –
Teacher: Which some of them were.
Texas: They don’t acknowledge Christopher Columbus as a visionary.
Teacher: I suppose most people don’t consider punishing Native Americans by making them wear their chopped-off ears around their necks as “visionary” anymore.
Texas: They ruin the relationship between the Pilgrims and the Indians!
Teacher: I don’t see how. The Pilgrims did most of the ruining themselves. They launched dozens of raids on the Native Americans.
Texas: See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about! That kind of unpatriotic attitude! That negative view of our great country!
Teacher: What, you think positivity makes something great? History isn’t about that! It’s not about negative or positive; it never has been. History isn’t black-and-white. It’s colorful and layered and dimensional, and we need to teach our kids to look at it that way. Have you ever asked yourself why we study history? It’s so that we can gain a better understanding of the world around us by looking at people and events of the past. But if we won’t let ourselves look at those things, I mean, really look at them, if we focus on the positive aspects of history and never the bad, then we’re cheating ourselves and preventing ourselves from moving forward. Yes, the Founding Fathers were revolutionaries that laid foundations for liberty. But some of them were slaveowners as well. How can we truly understand them if we don’t understand all sides of their characters? How can we claim to know the history of America if we don’t acknowledge racism and sexism and war crimes? It’s more disrespectful and unpatriotic to ignore these parts of history, because without them, we wouldn’t be America! And that’s what history is. It teaches us. About ourselves, about our past, and about our future. And if we don’t learn to look at multiple perspectives and think critically about different layers of events, we can’t ever truly understand ourselves – and in doing so, we are denying our very identity.
College Board: Um, are you done yet? I, like, have some money to count, so I gotta go.
Teacher: That’s another thing. It’s not about money either.
College Board: Of course it’s about money! Like, everything is about money! Not that I like, expect you to understand or anything. I mean, what do you make, a janitor’s wage or something?
Teacher: You know, it’s a good thing that I have control over what I teach my students and these guidelines are simply guidelines.
Texas: Bitch, don’t even think about messing with Texas. You’ll teach what we tell you to teach, or we’ll fire your ass!
Teacher: Fine! I’ll move to Iowa! I’m sure there are some cows that need to be taught American history somewhere!
College Board: Teachers have such like, bad attitudes. Look, I gotta go. Have some money to count and some SATs to print!
Texas: I too must leave. But don’t worry – the State of Texas will be watching. Don’t – cross – us.
Mediator: I need some alcohol.