Teachers shouldn’t emphasize the negative aspects of U.S. history.
So claims proposed Senate Resolution 80, sponsored by Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, which demands changes to the advanced placement U.S. History framework created by the national College Board.
The new curriculum framework — or teaching guide for AP U.S. history teachers — was introduced last year and implemented for the first time this school year.
The framework “reflects a radically revisionist view of American ... history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects,” the resolution states.
The resolution also claims the framework minimizes discussion of the Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the religious influences in U.S. history, while presenting a “biased and inaccurate view” of topics including the actions of American settlers and subjects relating to the Great Depression and Cold War.
Ernest Davis, an AP U.S. History teacher at Chestatee High School, has taught AP courses for 12 years. He believes the new framework is better than the previous one because it “helps illuminate the truth whichever way it falls.”
“I teach my students everything I know that occurred in history,” Davis said. “That includes the good, bad and ugly truth based on primary and secondary sources.”
Davis also said the framework is “as good as can be expected” given teachers have to cover more than 400 years of history in one course.
Laura Novotny-Beaver, Flowery Branch High School’s AP U.S. History teacher, agreed with Davis. She said she doesn’t see the new framework as negative but rather more thorough.
“I think as educators we have a responsibility to teach all of it,” Novotny-Beaver said. “That sometimes means celebrating great things we have done as a country and sometimes reflecting on things we could have done better or differently.”
Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in Hall County, said the legislation aims to ensure history lessons are not made “less American.”
“I think what it’s saying is some of the foundations of our country may have been left out of the revision of the AP history,” she said. “For that reason, we always like the option and actually take the route of making sure our students, whatever we’re teaching, have a comprehensive curriculum.”
The curriculum framework planner, available on the College Board’s website, breaks U.S. history into nine periods dating back to 1491. In each period, key concepts are provided and space is left for teacher-selected examples of individuals, groups, events and more.
In the framework’s own introduction, it clarifies “the curriculum framework is not the complete curriculum,” and reminds teachers they are at liberty to choose historical evidence and figures to teach the concepts in the framework.
Novotny-Beaver said a thorough discussion in any history course ultimately depends on the teacher.
“The teacher is primarily responsible for knowing the content, cross-referencing the state standards, using the key concepts from the College Board, to teach our nation’s complete history,” she said. “I talk about every president, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, our wars, the religious, social, racial and economic topics, as well as entertainment and technology.”
Yet the proposed resolution threatens funding for AP U.S. history materials if the College Board does not comply with the state request for revisions. It even would push for elimination of federal funding to the College Board.
The state board also would be directed to explore alternatives to the AP program that would still give Georgia students a chance to earn college credits.
Barron said several Hall County schools already offer some alternatives, including the International Baccalaureate program.
State Superintendent Richard Woods expressed his concerns with the framework in a statement released Friday.
“I fully support SR 80’s move to ensure that Georgia’s students are being taught using the very best history standards possible,” Woods said in the statement. “Any opportunity for our academic or our nation’s historical integrity to be eroded must not be allowed.”
However, Woods also noted all Georgia students must take a U.S. history end-of-course test, which ensures they are learning the principles valued by state education leaders and standards.
The College Board released its own statement in response to the legislation’s claims. It said the objections to the framework show “a blatant disregard for the facts.” It also cited the many American historical associations and organizations that support the new framework.
The statement reads: “In the face of these attacks on our long-standing and highly respected approach to developing college-level courses, AP teachers and students, our member institutions and the American people can rest assured: The College Board will not compromise the integrity of the Advanced Placement Program.”