By PHOEBE SOLOMON
Praise of American exceptionalism has unfortunately embedded itself deeply into certain aspects of American society, particularly among the conservative population. American exceptionalism is the idea that America is uniquely distinct in terms of political and social standing, and incidentally proponents of the theory cited it fervently to argue in favor for American imperialism in the 20th century.
Most recently, Republicans in Oklahoma used American exceptionalism to call for defunding of the Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) course in the state. Policymakers claim that the newly-designed curriculum, debuted by College Board, focuses too heavily on negative events in United States history, thus resulting in an unprecedented lack of patriotism among high school students.
Perhaps students of the inaugural, reinvigorated APUSH course should be considered in this substantial decision. As one such student, I am able to recognize that the APUSH curriculum does not unjustifiably perpetuate the discrimination suffered by various groups in U.S. history.
It is true that I am more aware than ever before of the atrocities, such as imperialism and other inequalities, committed by the United States throughout its relatively short history, but I am also more knowledgeable regarding the admirable parts of America’s past, such as suffrage and the eventual abolishment of slavery.
College Board is not attempting to fabricate a generation of anti-nationalistic students. There is no seemingly deceitful underlying theme at play. Rather, the intent of the APUSH curriculum is merely and purely to adequately inform students of U.S. history. Oklahoma State Representative Dan Fisher attempts to explain to CNN, “We don’t want our tax dollars going to a test that undermines our history.” In my experience, the curriculum achieves its purpose of educating students in an objective manner. Our textbook consistently uses unbiased language, and supplemental reading and primary sources are composed of a generous blend of all perspectives. The APUSH curriculum is hardly to blame if College Board’s equitable depiction of U.S. history reveals the country’s deficiencies.
The Advanced Placement program is designed to give students a more enriching and in-depth analysis of certain subjects, as well as to allow students to take an AP test for college credits. Oklahoma politicians are not securing a patriotic lifestyle for students. Instead, they are denying students their fundamental right to education. The point of AP courses is to foster critical thinking skills in a college level class. Oklahoma’s disparaging of APUSH serves only to hurt the students who wish to explore U.S. history in greater depth. From a practical standpoint — one not riddled with faulty patriotic intentions — nobody stands to gain anything from the defunding of APUSH.
Students should be able to access the fundamental right to education and the entire history of the country they live in. Oklahoma Republicans do have a justification for defunding APUSH, other than the fact that they do not like all parts of American history.
Students not allowed to take APUSH are being prevented from developing their own opinions based on unbiased material. Each one of these students has been endowed with a fundamental right to freedom of speech, and yet lawmakers propose these students be stripped of the education pivotal in generating the “speech” in question.