AP US History Teachers on the New Curriculum
This year, College Board created a new curriculum for AP US History, a class that Leigh Campbell-Hale and Scott Peoples teach at Fairview. In recent months, political groups and the Jefferson County school board have questioned the curriculum, fueling student protests.
“It’s very different than the way we’ve approached it before but it doesn’t substantially alter what is important in American History. It’s just the way that we present it and the way that we teach it,” said Peoples.
In a recent resolution, the Republican National Committee, called the new curriculum a “radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”
“I think when you are talking about a national narrative, people get touchy,” said Campbell-Hale, “you have some folks who want this national narrative to look this way and you have different people who want the national narrative to look a different way.”
This raises the question of if there is a correct interpretation of history that teachers should teach.
“I put the facts out there and let people make their own determinations rather than focus the curriculum to make people think a different way,” Peoples said.
Here, the drama surrounding the course will likely not affect students as the Boulder Valley school board is unlikely to pass any similar restrictions on the new curriculum.
“I don’t see anything similar coming down from the current school board of BVSD,” Peoples said.
Campbell-Hale has had experience with newly instated curriculums in the past and encountered similar difficulties.
“In 1994 I was part of a group that worked hard to come up with history standards that involved high school history teachers and college professors,” Campbell-Hale said, “the same thing happened. It got blown out of the water for political reasons and that time it was Lynn Cheney who did it, Dick Cheney’s wife. Lynn Cheney, William Bennett (Secretary of Education 1985-1988), and all these right wing conservative lawyers came up and said ‘It’s not patriotic, there’s not enough names of heroes in American history here, we are getting all this multicultural stuff going on.’”
The College Board, who runs the AP program nationwide, has not yet made any decisions about changing the new curriculum and on September 26 released a statement in support of the Jefferson County protesters. It also threatened to cancel the AP program for Jefferson County schools.
“Don’t kid yourself; College Board is for profit. They are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, they are doing it for market share,” said Mrs. Campbell-Hale.
Mr. Peoples, however, believes that these changes are here to stay.
“The last time we had a curriculum change it was for about 30 years with the same model,” he said, “so we just switched that this year. I know that there may be some tweaks to it next year, but I think they’re pretty set in how they are going to approach it.”
On October 7th, the Jefferson County school board formed a board to review the issue made up of parents and students. Whatever the future of this problem, Fairview should remain largely unaffected by the controversy of the new curriculum.
“History is always revised,” said Campbell-Hale, “History is always in a constant state of revision. Facts are not indisputable, inert things. It’s what you do with those facts that make it history.”