On June 6, 1984, President Ronald Reagan stood at the very spot on the northern coast of France where forty years before Allied soldiers had stormed ashore to liberate Europe from the long night of Nazi tyranny.
As an audience of D-Day veterans and world leaders listened, President Reagan introduced the American Rangers who captured the cliffs as “champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”
But starting this year, many of our best students won’t learn about the “boys of Pointe du Hoc.” Although state and local U.S. history standards recognize and honor the heroism and contributions of American military commanders, servicemen and women, and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, the College Board’s redesigned Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) Framework ignores them. In fact, it essentially ignores all of American military history from the Revolutionary War to the present day.
About 500,000 of our nation’s most academically talented high school sophomores and juniors take APUSH. The College Board’s new Framework completely omits all American military commanders and notes just two battles – Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea. It totally neglects the valor and sacrifices of the American servicemen and women. Veterans and their families will be dismayed to learn that Washington does not cross the Delaware, William Travis (a South Carolina hero) does not defend the Alamo, and the GI’s do not liberate Europe.
Instead, our students will learn that the American Expeditionary Force in World War I “played a relatively limited role in the war” (yes, it states that even though American casualties totaled almost 321,000) and that during World War II the “atomic bomb raised questions about American values.” In addition, the Framework reduces both the Korean War and the Vietnam War to just one sentence, while completely omitting the GI Bill, the Berlin Airlift, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Although the APUSH Framework largely passes over American military history, it does devote extensive coverage to conflicts with Native Americans. For example, the Framework notes five major wars between Native Americans and the colonists and two major battles between Plains Indians and the U.S. Cavalry. Indeed, the Framework devotes more space to diplomatic relations with Native American tribes following the French and Indian War than it does to both World War I and World War II combined. It is also shocking to learn that the Framework omits all mention of General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of the D-Day Invasion, yet sees the need to note Chief Little Turtle — whose warriors killed 600 U. S. soldiers in America’s worse military disaster against Native American forces.
The College Board insists that the APUSH Framework offers a “balanced” presentation of the American story. However, the imbalance between its minimal coverage of traditional American military history and its enhanced coverage of the conflicts with Native Americans strongly supports the conclusion that the authors of the Framework had other objectives.
The nine professors and high school teachers who wrote the APUSH Framework adopted a consistent revisionist interpretation of American history. In a penetrating analysis of the roots of the Framework, Stanley Kurtz explains that, from the revisionist point of view, “the heart of our country’s history lies in the pursuit of empire, the dominion over others.” Given this focus on America as a rising imperialist power, “the formative American moment was the colonial assault on the Indians… This is why the Framers and the principles of our Constitutional system receive short shrift in the new AP guidelines, and why the conflict between the settlers and the Indians has taken center stage.”
The Framework’s neglect of American military history is also closely tied to the document’s aversion to the concept of American Exceptionalism. According to this traditional concept, America has a historic mission to be a model and defender of freedom and democracy. American forces thus do not go into battle because they hate the enemy or to seize new territories. Rather, like “the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” they risk their lives to defend freedom at home and around the world.
One must wonder how, in a few years, APUSH will describe the heroics of today’s military. Or will the College Board just ignore them altogether?
The Framework’s neglect of the valor and contributions of America’s military forces is unacceptable. During the initial assault on Omaha Beach, the American commander called on his troops to demonstrate extraordinary valor with this legendary command: “Rangers lead the way!” No such inspirational stories appear in the APUSH Framework.
We urge veterans and their families to lead the way in demanding that the College Board withdraw the APUSH Framework and return to a curriculum that rightly honors their bravery and sacrifice, and that reaffirms our founding principles as something worthy of the good fight.
Jane Robbins is the senior fellow of APP Education of the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
Larry Krieger is a retired AP U.S. History teacher from Pennsylvania.