Banning AP US History in High Schools


History is a broad concept. The truth of history, if history is even truth at all, is that it quite literally is the study of everything that has ever happened, and how that might affect the future.

Last month, an Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted yes on a bill that would cut funding and potentially rewrite the course of AP US History, affectionately (and unaffectionately) known as APUSH.

The bill’s presenter, Dan Fisher, an Oklahoma Representative, denounced the course in a hearing, saying, “In essence, we have a new emphasis on what is bad about America. [The new APUSH course framework] trades an emphasis on America’s founding principles of constitutional government in favor of robust analyses of gender and racial oppression and class ethnicity and the lives of marginalized people, where the emphasis on instruction is of America as a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

The bill also proposed that APUSH is replaced by a course that covers “American exceptionalism.”


If history is about what happened in the past, can we simply “erase” the mistakes our nation has made in the minds of the youth? Should we skirt around our problems and pretend they never happened? Yes, the course covers oppression committed by the United States, but it also celebrates the triumphs. Learning through these facts makes students see history and the world in a broader way, instead of being stuck in our “American bubble.”

Teaching students history that covers our nation’s mistakes isn’t anti-American. After all, the best way to learn is from our own mistakes. Learning about American triumphs and tribulations can keep us from making the same mistakes again.

The only thing we achieve from avoiding talking about our past mistakes is the inevitable risk of them coming up again. Rewriting history to promote “American exceptionalism,” also promotes the idea that we should look over our mistakes and avoid our problems by simply pretending they never happened.

It’s ludicrous to believe that not teaching students about both the good and the bad of our past means that the only the good will happen in the future. Then you have a generation ignorant to the issues of American society. When you learn to drive you don’t learn about the best drivers in the world, you learn about the people who’ve made mistakes– the drunk driver, the drowsy driver — so that you don’t make the same mistakes they did.

Banning AP US History in high schools is about more than students missing out on America’s “exceptionalism”: it’s about missing out on the possibility of a future that’s better than the past.


Further Reading:

New York Magazine: Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Voted to Ban AP US History
CNN: Is Oklahoma Scared of AP History?
The Washington Post: The bizarre war against AP US History Courses