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‘Churchill in, Columbus still out’: Conservative scholars weigh in on AP European history framework’s revisions

A group of conservative scholars has weighed in on the College Board’s latest revisions to its Advanced Placement European history framework, saying the changes include some positive elements but still ignores European history’s important contributions to the modern world.

The framework also continues to snub Christopher Columbus, gloss over Soviet genocide, and doesn’t even use the word “liberty,” the National Association of Scholars state.

Last year, the group of right-of-center scholars led the charge in criticizing the new framework after it was released, pointing out that it eliminated religion’s influence on the development of Western Civilization, ignored Winston Churchill, whitewashed the evils of communism, and lauded the welfare state.

More recently the College Board updated the framework, and the association says there’s some positive changes — that the board corrected flaws pointed out by the association — but there’s still room for improvement.

“I am proud of the extensive superficial changes, but they really need to make structural changes,” David Randall, director of communications for the association, told The College Fix in a telephone interview.

According to the association, the College Board improved the framework as it placed a new emphasis on European identity studies, returned Winston Churchill to the curriculum, gave greater prominence to religion, removed some biased language against free markets, put forth a somewhat more accurate picture of the horrific character of the Soviet Union, reduced hostility toward conservatives, and added some praiseworthy elements of European history.

Yet much of the problems remain unchanged, according to the association.

“Above all, the College Board failed to include liberty,” the group states on its website. “The words liberty and freedom are still almost absent from its standards, and there is no sense that the struggle for liberty is a central thread of European history.”

Other omissions the association points out include that the College Board failed to include economic liberty, incorporate how modern educational studies emerged from Europe, or mention Soviet genocide.

“The Soviets committed multiple genocides,” Randall said. “Progressive professors have been resisting saying this outright. They don’t want to admit the Soviets were a feather’s breath better than the Nazis.”

The framework also still ignores Columbus.

“There was not one conservative historian in the room when they were writing this,” Randall said. “[The framework’s omissions] could have been avoided if they had one conservative historian in the room who could say, ‘Hey, wait a minute.'”

Ultimately the framework downplays Europe’s role in the modern world, according to the association.

“The College Board failed to argue that European history is exceptional, important, or interesting in itself, failed to give a reason why students should study Europe’s history in particular, and failed to mention that Americans should study Europe’s past because it is our history,” the association states on its website.

AP European History is a college-prep high school class that many students expecting to attend a four-year university can take. At the end of the course, students can choose to take an exam and can earn college credit in that course by passing. The exam is based on the framework provided by the College Board to high school teachers, and so educators tend to focus on the guidelines to shape their lesson plans.

“You cannot rely on the school system to teach you the proper history,” Randall told The Fix. “It may happen. At best it’s a trust but verify situation.”

Asked to weigh in on the association’s critique, Zach Goldberg, a spokesman for the College Board, told The College Fix via email that the framework is sound and well rounded.

“Development of the AP European History curriculum framework was a rigorous five-year process to ensure quality, objectivity, and alignment to requirements for college credit. Participants in this process included more than 190 AP European History teachers and more than 70 professors from colleges and universities worldwide,” Goldberg said via email.

“Since its release in 2013, the course has received consistently positive feedback from AP teachers, students, historians, and the higher education community. The AP Program welcomes any additional feedback on AP European History and will take it into consideration.”

Click here to read the association’s report: “Churchill In, Columbus Still Out: A Half-Loaf from the College Board.”

IMAGE: Alan Cleaver/Flickr

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.