S.C. education leaders bucked requests Wednesday by conservative activists to accuse the makers of a U.S. history course of being anti-American.
Among those defending the advanced history course were about three dozen teachers and students, who quietly expressed their frustration as critics took the microphone in the real-life civics lesson unfolding before them.
At the State Board of Education’s meeting Wednesday, critics of the College Board’s Advanced Placement U.S. history course expressed fear that a 140-page course guideline could cause teachers to leave out lessons about the patriotism and uniqueness that makes the United States great.
The critics, organized by the anti-Common Core S.C. Parents Involved in Education, wanted state education leaders to follow the lead of Texas, passing a resolution demanding the guidelines and the approach to the course be rewritten.
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Board member Larry Kobrovsky, who made the failed motion to do just that, said he takes issue with the way the College Board’s guidelines interpret history through the "prism of race, gender and class and not individualism."
That view could bleed into the course, he said after the meeting Wednesday, adding he felt better after hearing from teachers that they were teaching students patriotic views of the nation.
Teachers of the history class urged lawmakers not to do anything that could, even down the road, threaten students’ access to the course, which the state is required by state law to offer. Last year, more than 5,000 students took the AP U.S. history course. More than half of those students scored a 3, 4 or 5 on the exam, making them eligible for college credit.
Spring Hill AP U.S. history teacher Jeffrey Eargle, who has been a grader of the course, asked the Education Board not to follow Texas, a state whose history standards received a “D” in a 2011 study by the Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. South Carolina’s history standards earned an “A” in that same study, he said.
Teachers also dismissed fears their courses would no longer include positive perspectives on the nation’s development and history.
“I'm as proud an American as they come, and I'm a true believer of American exceptionalism,” said Keirstan Harris, an AP U.S. history teacher in Summerville.
University of South Carolina geography professor Jerry Mitchell said he was offended by the assumption that the course framework was anti-American and “by extension so are we.’
“It's narrow,” said Mitchell, who helped write the state’s own history standards. “It's an ugly view and it's led our history into some of its darkest moments.”
Some critics – including Kobrovsky and state schools’ chief Mick Zais – recently have tied the guidelines to what they see as liberal perspectives on gender and race taught in colleges and universities.
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