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Exclusive — Stanley Kurtz: AP US History Battle Worse Than Common Core

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In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, conservative “culture war” commentator Stanley Kurtz discussed his recent work in reviewing the Advanced Placement U.S. History framework and why he believes this battle is even worse for America than that over the Common Core standards.

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Kurtz recently disagreed with Wall Street Journal deputy editor Daniel Henninger that conservatives had won a victory over the College Board’s decision to make some changes to its Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) framework. Henninger wrote that the College Board — led by president and “architect” of the Common Core standards David Coleman — had ditched its left-wing bias as a result of conservative backlash.

During a forum on federalism in New Hampshire, where the senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center spoke about APUSH, Kurtz tells Breitbart News: “The College Board claims that they fixed it, but that’s bogus.”

“Yes, they took out some of the more biased language, but the underlying approach still leans very far to the left and, more importantly, the College Board hasn’t really revised the textbooks or the exam itself, the course syllabi or any of the guts of the actual course,” he explains. “So, most of the changes the College Board is touting were just for public consumption.”

Kurtz mapped out how the issue of AP courses is of far greater magnitude than some might think:

The APUSH battle is the leading edge of what is rapidly becoming a national curriculum controlled by the left. The reason why APUSH is the tip of the iceberg on this is because the AP program is run by the College Board and that program is now expanded to cover about one-third of America’s students. However, the College Board — and some of the government folks who subsidize the College Board — want to expand it even further. They’d like to see it move up to maybe 40 percent, 50 percent of American students.

The AP program covers every single subject in the curriculum, and we’re talking about one-third, and maybe 40 percent, 50 percent of American students, perhaps more. So, if you control the curriculum for every single AP course, you have in effect created a national curriculum. You have made an “end run” around the states and the districts and, of course, the voters and parents they represent, and you have literally handed control of America’s curriculum to the leftist college professors who advise the College Board.

Kurtz, whose writing has appeared in many publications, including National Review and the Wall Street Journal, states the battle with the College Board is only just beginning.

“What’s happening is the College Board is issuing these long curriculum guidelines for every single one of its AP courses. APUSH was just one of the earliest ones,” he explains. “Now, the College Board has released a curriculum framework for AP European History, and that one is every bit as bad as the original APUSH framework.”

He continues:

AP European History focuses on the evils of colonialism and the supposed evils of capitalism, and it has very little to say about the problems of socialism. It has very little to say about religion — and when it does it’s negative — and very little to say about the development of representative democracy, which used to be a focus. We used to study the Magna Carta and the development of Parliament in England. In future years, we’ll have a framework on U.S. Government and Politics, World History, Literature — eventually the whole curriculum.

Kurtz said that the AP frameworks in many subjects will go beyond the 30 to 50 percent of students who are eligible to take the advanced level courses.

“A lot of teachers double up and they teach some regular classes and some AP classes,” he continues. “And if they are doing one curriculum for their AP classes, they’re going to draw on the basic ideas for their other classes.”

“In addition, the College Board is now pushing something called ‘Pre-AP,’” he adds, “where now they’re going to try to set you up as early as sixth grade for the future AP courses you’ll be taking.”

Kurtz believes that competition for the College Board is essential to countering the monopoly over the AP program.

“If you’re going to hold the AP program, and there’s no competition, and you set the curriculum, you have just set the curriculum for the entire country,” he says. “And you can push it down to grade levels. So, even the Common Core doesn’t go quite this far.”

“In a sense, if David Coleman’s Common Core falls apart — and it’s quasi falling apart right now — he can achieve all of his ends and maybe even more successfully through controlling the AP program,” he warns.

Kurtz hopes interest will soon develop in starting another testing company that will compete with the College Board.

“We need to start a company that’s advised by the very best traditional scholars, the kind of people who will provide a real alternative to the left-leaning scholars who advised the Common Core,” he explains. “If and when that happens, I hope and believe that some time within the next year or two it will happen, then we will need the support of the public.”

“There will be action at the federal and state levels that could be taken to open up that AP testing market to competition,” he foresees, adding:

What we’ve got right now is a massive set of government subsidies to the AP program which has enriched the College Board and made it untouchable. So, if a state or district is upset with the College Board, there’s very little they can do. Even if they were to threaten to withdraw, the College Board is so rich it wouldn’t really hurt them.

“It would be a different matter if the money that goes to pay testing fees for these kind of tests had to be competed for by different companies,” he says. “Right now, though, what we in effect have is a government-supported monopoly.”

“It’s a roundabout way for the Obama administration — it isn’t directly controlling AP — but through pushing on these subsidies,” Kurtz continues, but notes that Republicans are involved in subsidizing the AP program as well.

“In effect, they’re handing David Coleman the power to set a national curriculum regardless of what any state or school district does,” he observes. “It completely flies in the face of any constitutional notion of federalism. The founders would be rolling over in their graves. We have to start debating this as a nation. With luck, we’ll have some competition and then the public will really have to mobilize.”


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