In mid-February a group of Oklahoma legislators, led by state representative Dan Fisher, proposed a bill that would completely retool the current AP U.S. History curriculum, a bill that has sparked some controversy due to the fact that its chief goal seems to be making history classes more “patriotic.”
Their problem is that the current curriculum puts less emphasis on America’s “founding principles,” choosing instead to focus on “the lives of marginalized people” throughout American history. Now, before you think this bill is just an attempt by rich, educated, white men to paint American history as something created entirely through the contributions of rich, educated, white men, you should note that it’s not the focus on minorities with which these lawmakers have a problem. It’s that the focus on minorities reminds us that America is such a piece of shit sometimes.
See, spending so much time on “robust analyses” of the “gender and racial oppression and class ethnicity” that occur so often throughout American history leads students to somehow interpret America as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters” instead of the democracy-bringing, WWII-winning Amurrican heroes we know ourselves to be. If only our curriculum instead focused on unoppressed white men, we could ignore all those signs that America is not a perfect paragon of morality and instead pat ourselves on the back for being so progressive that we only kept slavery legal for ninety years.
But, alas, the AP curriculum does no such thing. For instance, it calls manifest destiny a racist idea of American cultural superiority used to justify American seizure of native lands, which according to Fisher is completely off base. As he explains, manifest destiny was merely “the American mission to spread democracy and technology across the continent.” See, manifest destiny wasn’t a bunch of Americans thinking that they were so amazing that it was okay for them to kill people and steal their land, they actually were just that amazing, and Fisher is in no way falling to that same self-superior thought process which led to this aforementioned theft and genocide!
Some might argue that the existence of arguments like this is exactly why the current curriculum is necessary. But those people are entirely off base, say proponents of this curriculum reform bill. The truth is that American pride today is already under attack (from what, nobody’s specified. The media, maybe? Evolution? You just know Obama’s got to be involved somehow), and this disproportionate emphasis on all the bad things America’s done distracts us from the real issue.
12.5 million were sold into slavery in the Americas between 1500 and 1866. Estimates vary for the number of natives killed in the pursuit of manifest destiny, but most agree it too numbered in the millions. Nearly half of all homeless in America today are black (when only about one-sixth of the total population is) and Native Americans are similarly overrepresented. So given all that, Mr. Fisher, exactly what amount of focus would you say is historically ‘proportionate’?