US History course comes under fire

One of the most well-known Advanced Placement (AP) courses, AP United States History [APUSH], has come under fire recently by the Republican National Committee (RNC) after changes were made to the exam.

The RNC claimed that the new exam “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history.”

Kris Westgaard (’16), who is taking the course this year, first heard of the changes made to the AP exam and the claims made by the RNC over the summer. Westgaard does not agree with the challenges made to the exam. Claims by the RNC include that the revised AP does not require knowledge of specific figures who shaped America for the exam. “They brought up that nowhere does it mention Martin Luther King [Jr.] needs to be known for the AP exam, meanwhile, we study the Civil Rights movement. When you study the Civil Rights movement, it includes people like Martin Luther King [Jr.],” he said.

Social Studies Teacher Mike McGowan, who has been teaching AP United States History for 10 years, introduced this year’s U.S. History students to the course by telling them about the RNC’s push to change the AP exam. “For me it’s been really exciting to see all of this controversy over [APUSH] because it brings a lot of history to the course,” he said.

When McGowan first heard the RNC’s admonishments of the new AP exams, he was “pretty skeptical largely because there have been these wars between conservatives and liberals over what is the ‘correct’ history of the United States. I always think it’s part of promoting another political agenda,” he said.

McGowan believes that this political agenda is possibly linked with the upcoming midterm elections on November 4. McGowan speculates that the Republican Party has made these claims about  the AP exam to create a “wedge issue”.

McGowan explained that a wedge issue is one created by a political party to essentially make voters decide between two candidates. “I don’t have proof of this, but I would not be surprised if a large part of this focus on the AP exam is aimed at some other larger political purpose,” he said. “When a political party makes a statement we can usually assume that statement has political purposes.”

charlotte_young@asl.org