Senate Resolution 80, sponsored by Republican William Ligon of Brunswick, was read in the Senate for the first time Wednesday morning. The resolution is a response to changes made in the College Board prescribed curriculum framework for Advanced Placement American History, and it fits nicely with the fifth goal of the Senate Majority Caucus, which is “Ensuring that the founding principles of our constitutional republic are taught to our students so that they are equipped for self-government and able to maintain their heritage of freedom.”
The resolution claims that
the framework presents a biased and inaccurate view of many important themes and events in American history, including the motivations and actions of seventeenth to nineteenth century settlers, the nature of the American free enterprise system, the course and resolution of the Great Depression, and the development of and victory in the Cold War.
It further states that the framework does not match the Georgia Performance Standards for social studies, and asks that he College Board return to the prior curriculum, which was aligned with the Georgia standards. Should the College Board not comply with the legislature’s request, the resolution contemplates having the state school board implement an alternative curriculum compliant with the Georgia standards, and asking the governor to work out reciprocal agreements with other states to honor the Georgia curriculum.
The controversy over the AP US History curriculum has been brewing for a while, especially in Gwinnett County. The AJC examined the situation in Gwinnett, and reported that for now, no changes are expected in the curriculum:
The A.P. course is designed not to simply test a student’s memory, but to measure critical thinking skills, Gwinnett officials say.
“We begin teaching that in the first grade,” Debbie Daniell, Gwinnett’s social studies director, said of some of the material critics say isn’t included in the A.P. course. “It is absolutely taught in our U.S. history courses, with rigor and depth of knowledge.”
The state’s new school superintendent, Richard Woods, recently said he wants to issue Georgia’s 123,000 fifth-graders pocket copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
“Students need to know about our Founding Fathers,” Woods said.
The effort by the legislature to influence the curriculum at elementary and secondary schools is similar to efforts in other states. The New York Times published a story on Wednesday about how legislators in Arizona and a dozen other states are considering requiring students to pass a civics test given to immigrants before they can become American citizens. Some in the education field are pushing back against the idea:
The move to require students to pass the citizenship test has created controversy, however, and not because of any issues related to immigration. Rather, at a time when resistance to standardized testing is growing, some educators worry that the new requirement will rob teachers of instructional time and will encourage rote memorization rather than a more robust discussion of civic involvement.
“I don’t think the test measures what is most important for students to learn,” said Diana Hess, a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation, which gives grants in support of education causes. “If all we’re asking students to do is answer very simple questions, we’re not going to be working on the complex understanding that I think students need in order to participate well.”
In Florida, legislators have proposed requiring students in the 8th and 11th grades to watch the movie America: Imagine the World Without Her by Dinesh D’Souza, a film that celebrates American exceptionalism.
Bill sponsor state Sen. Alan Hays told the News-Press that it is needed to counter “erroneous” information being taught in history classrooms, which he said is overly negative. “Frankly, it’s embarrassing that we allow these lies to be taught in our school system,” Hays said. “Unfortunately, our parents and our school board members have not kept up with the misrepresentation of American history that is being perpetrated in our school system, and this movie gives a totally different view.”
At least one Georgia legislator has considered filing a bill similar to the Florida bill this session, requiring students to watch the D’Souza film.
That there are three separate but related measures from state legislators across the country shows, at minimum, some discontent with the curriculum being taught in public schools, and the point of view that curriculum espouses. While activists last year were–and in many cases still are–concerned about how the Common Core Standards would affect education, the concern about the AP US History curriculum, civic knowledge, and American exceptionalism is much more closely tied to what children are taught, and less to the concepts they should be able to understand.
Those opposing Common Core maintained that they were trying to maintain local control over education. One question that needs to be answered is where decisions about what students are learning should be made: by an unelected national college testing organization, at the state legislative level, at the state school board level, or by county and city school boards.