Friday, July 31, 2015

Cruising the Web

The new framework for the Advanced Placement U.S. History course is out and, of course, College Board submitted it to Newsweek before teachers. We have to wait our copy in the mail. One thing they've done is cut down on the learning objectives from 50 to 19. That's good, because it was ridiculous before. And they've responded to conservative critics by adding more on the Founding and American exceptionalism.
The new framework significantly pares down last year’s framework, simplifying and condensing the course’s Thematic Learning Objectives from 50 to 19, according to an official at the College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers AP exams. In the process, a new section on the concept of “American exceptionalism” has been added. Some names that were omitted from last year’s framework, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, have been added—a key sticking point for critics of the prior document, who objected to Founding Fathers being omitted and negative aspects in American history being more emphasized, they claimed, than positive periods. Ben Carson, a GOP presidential candidate, said the curriculum was so anti-American that students who complete it would be “ready to sign up for ISIS.”
They've tried to eliminate language that critics felt was anti-American or a bias against America. I wouldn't know since teachers haven't been able to see it yet. It's not like we're preparing for school to start in less than two weeks or anything.

To tell the truth, I was never all that upset about the objectives and how they were phrased in the first place. It was always clear that there were suggestions on whom to mention and how to teach, but not mandates. I didn't change my content that I taught at all. What was really different is how the essays are graded. They've made some small modifications on the grading rubrics for the essays, but I haven't had time to study them enough to see if this is much of an improvement. I still prefer a holistic grade rather than giving kids points for each part of the rubric recipe that they fulfill, but apparently the holistic horse has left the barn.

It's funny, but already on the teacher bulletin board that I read, the teachers are already making fun of having to teach American exceptionalism and having to teach "America's military achievements." I guess that teachers find teaching the barest mention of military history as beneath them, while other topics like social and environmental history are just fine to emphasize. Since I love teaching military history and used to teach a course on American military history, this slight shift is just fine with me.

And now I'm leaving for a couple days to visit my daughters before school starts. Have a nice weekend.