AP students deserve to learn unbiased history

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During the past two weeks, hundreds of Colorado high school students have walked out of class to protest proposed changes to the Advanced Placement (AP) United States History Exam. Four high schools even closed for a day when teachers organized a “sick out,” claiming that the school board is not listening to them on a range of issues, including the AP curriculum.

The protests were in response to a resolution by Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams. The resolution stated that AP United States History classes should promote “patriotism and … the benefits of the free-enterprise system” and should not “encourage or condone civil disorder.” As soon as she heard that conservatives were upset, Williams proposed a committee to review the district’s courses. According to Williams, the committee will work to improve the AP United States History curriculum. In an interview with the local Fox News affiliate, Williams stated that her resolution was to teach history without bias.

Jefferson County is Colorado’s second-largest school district, with a conservative majority of elected members in the school board. Williams’ proposal caused a spark of protest from board members. Conservative board members claim that the new curriculum undervalues concepts such as “American Exceptionalism.” Protests began with 100 students, who claim that they do not want their history censored.

The issues around what education should and should not be have been brought up. Many educators would agree that classrooms should promote critical thinking and teach students based on the facts. The educational environment should be a place where students and teachers can share ideas and build on them using knowledge acquired. The more students know, the more evidence they can draw from when engaging in academic discussion.

Additionally, it is important to consider the purpose of the AP exams. Most students take the AP exams in order to send the scores to colleges for credit. Receiving college credit for high school education is important. The AP score is supposed to reflect a level of critical thinking that is expected at the college level. This kind of critical thinking can only take place when the student has the necessary information.

Especially in the case of history courses, students have the right to be educated in an unbiased environment. Yes, cultural bias in teaching is unavoidable and every teacher holds their own beliefs. However, when changing the curriculum of an AP course, one should consider the fact that any change should help students develop critical thinking skills by applying acquired knowledge. This knowledge should be provided without censorship, because students have the right to know the complete history, and not just snippets of it.