Tennessee’s state board of education refused to adopt a resolution denouncing the new AP History curriculum, which conservatives believe presents too negative a view of American history. While this might not seem like much, considering the fact that Tennessee is a huge conservative enclave, it’s positively earth shattering.
The controversy regarding the College Board’s new curriculum for AP U.S. History comes from the fact that it no longer glosses over some of the darker points of American history. The Republican National Committee called it “radically revisionist,” according to Talking Points Memo, and went so far as to call on Congress to look into it.
In Tennessee, activist Jane Robbins, of the conservative group American Principles Project, called upon the Tennessee Board of Education to denounce the new AP History curriculum and was one of the only detractors at their hearing over the issue. She claimed that the new teaching was “leftist,” and focused too much on the bad parts of American history and not enough on our “heroes,” according to The Tennessean.
Several Tennessee lawmakers also called on the Board of Education to revisit the curriculum; in fact, they held the hearing in response to the state legislature’s request. In the end, the Board decided that merely holding the hearing complied with the state legislature’s demand, and they couldn’t take any action on a resolution that they had gotten just before the meeting started.
Considering how red Tennessee can be, one would expect the Board to immediately jump on board with the state lawmakers, and with conservative groups calling on the Board to reject the curriculum. Here’s why: According to an article in Newsweek, one of the many problems conservatives have with the curriculum is summed up by a former AP U.S. History teacher:
Instead of striving to build a city on a hill according to the Framework, our nation’s Founders are portrayed as bigots who ‘developed a belief in white superiority’—that’s a quote—that was in turn derived from ‘a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority’ and that of course led to ‘the creation of a rigid racial hierarchy.
The new AP History curriculum also changed how it portrays Manifest Destiny. Instead of being all about spreading the light of democracy, it, too, was about white, racial superiority. Considering what we, did, in fact, do to the Native Americans, it’s amazing that anybody still considers Manifest Destiny to be a positive aspect of our history. Those that do consider it that way naturally don’t want racism brought into the issue. Because, Manifest Destiny totally wasn’t racist at its heart.
And it also doesn’t paint the U.S. as the knight in shining armor of World War II, riding to everyone’s rescue on a white horse (we weren’t, and we didn’t). In short, it doesn’t really teach American exceptionalism anymore. Conservatives love to push American exceptionalism. To do otherwise is to be anti-American. It’s not patriotic. It might as well be treason for the way they act about it, so a Board of Education in a heavily conservative state refusing to denounce such a horrific curriculum is astounding, to say the least.
It’s not clear whether Tennessee will take the curriculum up again at a later date and change their position. All that’s certain is that, right now, a board of education in a conservative state didn’t immediately fall into lockstep with the rest of the Teapublicans over the new AP History curriculum. Perhaps they’ll realize that this is not revisionist history, and what we’ve been teaching this whole time fits that description much better.
H/T: Talking Points Memo
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