Aug 28 2014
10:23 am

The News Sentinel has an article that's really a link to an article in the Tennessean about Tennessee state senators joining in on an attack of AP US History curriculum standards.

It's bad enough that the Sentinel article is really just a link, but it's worse that the Tennessean does a lousy job covering the story as well.

The gist is that right-wingers are claiming that the AP US History materials are creating "revisionist" history that is politically motivated. The article reports the Republicans' general allegations and that the College Board has said "nuh-uh," but doesn't offer any details of what the supposed College Board revisionist history is.

Following links and digging around, it becomes clear that the Republicans' complaint is that the College Board isn't sticking with a 1950s-era obliviousness to the idea that anyone who isn't white and American has any story to tell at all. They are objecting to things like teaching that the enslavement of Africans was a causative factor for later strife.

All this highlights two important problems. First, we once again have (the allegedly left-wing) media offering up he-said she-said false equivalencies in their (lack of) reporting, leaving wide-open the possibility that the Republican complaints have merit. This just enables that rampant stupidity that passes for political discourse in the 21st century.

Second, once you figure out what it was the newspapers should have actually been reporting, you see the insidious anti-intellectual political agenda that is hidden in plain sight for the tea-party component of the anti-education-reform movement. This is a seriously dangerous thing. These people are not opposed to education reform for the same reasons that many others are. For the right-wingers, it's not about resisting the reforms because they show a lack of respect for teachers, or for the narrowing and dumbing down of what's to be offered as curriculum. For the right-wingers, it's about having local autonomy for the specific purpose of dumbing down the curriculum and institutionalizing the conservative political agenda. It's about teaching US history exclusively from the white, Christian point of view. It's about replacing science with biblical literalism. This is dangerous stuff, folks, and getting in bed with these anti-intellectual conservatives because they claim to share a common enemy will not result in a good outcome for American education.

Stick's picture

One: This is continuation of

One: This is continuation of the curriculum wars that have been raging since the 1980's. (See: Texas)

Two: Please elaborate on "getting into bed with these anti-intellectual conservatives"... Does this mean play along with the Democratic party even when it is in the wrong just so we can oppose the crazies? I'd be the first to say that the tea-hadis' jihad against the common core (for example) is full on nuts. But, does that mean we should play along in the name of partisan politics?

Somebody's picture

does that mean we should play

does that mean we should play along in the name of partisan politics?

No, but that's the sort of two-dimensional strategic thinking that has me worried about this.

To extend the metaphor: Getting in bed with the Tea Partiers might just end up breaking Common Core's heart, but you'll wake up in the morning wondering what you've done. The answer will be that you'll be giving birth to a generation of kids who think Rush Limbaugh is a great textbook author.

Stick's picture


I'm not trying to be a jerk. I find your posts here to be very well thought out and (with regard to local politics) really informative. However, on education issues, I'm at a loss as to what you're trying to accomplish.

All politics is dangerous to varying degrees. Debate over what should be taught in public schools has been with us since the institution was founded, and there is no reason to believe that it will change. It is not new. In a society such as ours, this is on-going work that is par for the course.

I'm interested to hear what we should do. The common core is very much a creature of the testing and accountability fetish that has been dominating ed politics for the past 30 years, and there are many reasons why people would be opposed to it beyond those linkages, including issues of developmental appropriateness and loosey-goosey definitions of "college ready". I have no control over Glenn Beck's new conspiracy theory and media grift. However, I do want to advance progressive education.

What should I do? Should I bite the bullet and support the common core and testing just b/c the crazies have taken up the cause for their own (let us say) creative reasons? Should I unconditionally give my support to a Democratic party that has embraced an ed platform that isn't progressive? Or should I try to push the Democratic party back toward the left?

I am asking b/c I find your thinking to be two-dimensional. Help me out. What is the proper strategy?

gonzone's picture

I say we use our energies to

I say we use our energies to push the Democratic party back towards the left. If we lose on those terms, it will be an honorable loss and the backlash will take care of the crazies. But then, I'm probably too optimistic.

Somebody's picture

I'm not the one to fix

I'm not the one to fix education for you. Nonetheless, the point here is that the right wing folks are not your friends. You're going to have to fight this one on multiple fronts, because these folks will say they're with you on common core and the current education initiative, but I believe their desired outcome is far different from yours. Not only should you stay away from them, but you should be unequivocal in calling them out. Otherwise, you tie your fate to theirs.

What should I do? Should I bite the bullet and support the common core and testing just b/c the crazies have taken up the cause for their own (let us say) creative reasons? Should I unconditionally give my support to a Democratic party that has embraced an ed platform that isn't progressive? Or should I try to push the Democratic party back toward the left?

The fact that you keep asking the first two questions is why I made the "two dimensional" remark. Those questions infer a fer em or agin em dichotomy that exists only in your own mind. Try going with option number three. There needs to be something offered in this debate that sounds better than common core or nothing. Also, offer something more practical than let's fix poverty first. That's not going to happen and you know it. There are kids living in poverty who are going to live in poverty, and their best hope of getting out of poverty is to get an education that defies their poverty.

Stick's picture

To your first point: You

To your first point: You obviously haven't been paying attention b/c that is and has been an on-going discussion on this very site (and well beyond) for quite some time. The idea that the progressives / liberals / leftists on this board are siding with the crazies in order to achieve a common goal would appear to be a figment of your imagination. A few non-verified (often deeply nuts) posters on KV does not a coalition make.

To your second point: This dichotomy you've constructed is, likewise, a figment of your imagination. There is no shortage of research, advocacy, institutional knowledge, and international examples that give us an idea as to what we should be doing in schools. The issue is that this body of knowledge has been sidelined through a sustained and well-financed political push. Your ignorance of this body of knowledge and the individuals and organizations who advocate for it does not mean it doesn't exist.

In essence, you've broken down a complex debate into a crude dichotomy and then accused others of either/or thinking. You seem to have strong opinions about this topic, but when pushed you have nothing of substance to offer. Perhaps a long gaze in the mirror is in order...

Again, I'm not trying to be a jerk. I've found your posts on local issues to be well reasoned and informative, and that is why I continually push back when you do this.

glostik's picture


That these guys are on the right track.


Stick's picture

I hope so too... I'll be

I hope so too... I'll be watching with interest to see what comes of it.

fischbobber's picture

My two cents

And that's probably what it's worth but with a deep breath, I'll throw it out anyway.


That is a link to the curriculum in question. It is a college level course. It is an honors course. I have spent considerable time in discussion and study on this curriculum, my son is currently enrolled in the class and I studied at an honors level at UT under Drs. Becker and Utley. This issue is not about common core. This issue is about whether or not educators are going to allow average and below average students determine what is taught at an honors level. This is not a common core issue. This is a question of whether or not the time tested process of training historians have been using since the dawn of time is to continue, or whether we are going to instruct our best and brightest to simply regurgitate whatever set of random facts whoever is in authority deems relevant. It strikes to the heart of whether or not we will teach critical thinking, encourage freedom of thought and allow our best and brightest the intellectual space to develop leaders for a better tomorrow. The vast majority of the people participating in this discussion have never had an honors class, don't have the intellectual capacity to pass this one and don't grasp the fundamentals of historical critical thinking. Letting our legislature dictate this curriculum is beyond dangerous.

One disturbing trait of the McIntyre administration is the sacrifice of the best and brightest students first whenever there is a cost cutting initiative. It seems we have spent my son's entire school career trying to stay one step ahead of the executioner. TAG was cut from elementary. Middle school extracurricular activities are self funded where they exist. We just got word from our public high school foundation leader that we may as well get used to the idea that our public high school was never going to be funded at a level that would provide a first class education and, if that's what we wanted we should prepare to pay out of pocket to keep our school functioning at its current level. So not only is the legislature and governor and school board and county commission and county mayor and school superintendent, not going to do their constitutionally mandated function and provide for the free education of Tennessee students, they are now overstepping their boundaries and outlawing smart kids. I can't overstate the inherent danger of what is happening.

Lumping honors and AP classes with Common core is insane. Ask an educator if a standard C student and an A Honors students should have the same curriculum. Honors students' special needs are every bit as real as the special needs of a student with autism or ADHD. They're just different. We wouldn't consider letting Nashville dictate how we deal with students perceived to be struggling, but we're throwing our hope for the next generation to the wolves. This proposed legislative solution is insane.

I wish I had written what Somebody has written. He has succinctly and concisely summed up this very real problem. To him I merely say, "+1."

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