Writing at National Review Online, Stanley Kurtz reveals why the College Board is demoting the Founders in its new framework for the Advanced Placement U.S. History Exam:
What is the core of the American story? What is American history about? For a long time, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was thought to offer the most succinct and profound reply to these questions. The heart of the American story was said to be the Founding, with its principles of liberty and equality. American history was thus a study of our efforts to more fully realize republican principles, often in the face of our own flaws and failings. American history was also about the defense in peace and war of a unique experiment–a nation bound by democratic norms, rather than by ties of blood.
More recently, revisionist historians have developed a different answer to the question of what America’s story is about. From their perspective, at the heart of our country’s history–like the history of any other powerful nation–lies the pursuit of empire, of dominion over others. In this view, the formative American moment was the colonial assault on the Indians. At its core, say the revisionists, America’s history is about our capacity for self-delusion, our endless attempts to justify raw power grabs with pretty fairy-tales about democracy.
The growing dispute over the College Board’s new Framework for AP U.S. History (APUSH) turns around these clashing views of the American story. The creators and defenders of the new APUSH Framework are adherents of a radically revisionist approach to American history. That is why the Framers and the principles of our Constitutional system receive short shrift in the new AP guidelines, and why the conflict between settlers and Indians has taken center stage instead.
The College Board claims that teachers are perfectly free to illustrate the new Framework’s themes by citing great figures of American history. The problem with this is that the Framework’s core concepts have been thoroughly shaped by the revisionist perspective. There is plenty of room for the Founders as exemplars of prejudice or blinkered ambition, yet far less opportunity to present them as architects of a principled republicanism.
Read the rest of the story at National Review.