An Oklahoma lawmaker has launched a crusade against Advanced Placement United States History classes… and it appears to be supported by members of the Oklahoma legislature.
Oklahoma State Representative Dan Fisher (R-Yukon), pictured above, has authored a bill that would decimate AP U.S. History classes in Oklahoma, because, as he says, the course framework “emphasizes what is bad about America” (Krehbiel 2015). Representative Fisher’s bill, HB 1380, would change all of that, making sure that students in Oklahoma AP U.S. History courses were taught American exceptionalism, the Ten Commandments, sermons by Puritan John Winthrop and Christian philosopher Jonathan Edwards, multiple speeches by Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush’s 9/11 speech. Conversely, there are no insights into Democratic Presidents after Lyndon Baines Johnson (Oklahoma 2015).
Representative Fisher has a slew of allies for his bill. He is a member of The Black Robe Regiment, a resource and networking entity where “church leaders and laypeople can network and educate themselves as to our biblical responsibility to stand up for our Lord and Savior and to protect the freedoms and liberties granted to a moral people in the divinely inspired US Constitution” (source: The Black Robe Regiment). The organization claims historical beginnings during the American Revolution, and that churches during that time were a “center-point for political debate and discussion on the relevant news of the day” (source: The Black Robe Regiment). The organization further claims that today’s church leaders are “afraid to speak out against the progressive agenda that has dominated our political system for the last century,” the church and God himself have “been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists,” and the “false wall of separation of church and state has been constructed in such a manner that most are unaware of its limited boundaries,” all while church leaders have “sat idle in consent” as “the church and the body of Christ [have] been attacked on all fronts and challenged by the progressive courts and groups such as the ACLU” (source: The Black Robe Regiment). The Black Robe Regiment has also demanded that “we must now arise and awaken to the danger of this hyper-progressive agenda that so permeates every aspect of our political, legal, and educational systems,” by “[educating] ourselves and [pushing] back against the erosion of our freedoms and liberties” so we may “restore the constitutional authority back to all aspects of our governance” (source: The Black Robe Regiment).
Another notable supporter is retired teacher Larry S. Krieger — seemingly the source for a lot of the Conservative backlash against Advanced Placement U.S. History in Oklahoma — who attacked the College Board’s revised framework for the course’s exam two years ago. Krieger said he saw a “consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters,” a framework that portrays the Founding Fathers as “bigots,” suggests that Manifest Destiny was enacted on a “belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority,” rather than the belief that America “had a mission to spread democracy and new technology across the continent,” and highlighted American internment camps in World War II, the moral dilemmas raised by dropping atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, instead of discussing the “valor and heroism of American soldiers” (Hartmann 2015). Furthermore, incensed sentiments regarding the changes made by the College Board regarding AP U.S. History have been noted in Georgia — where the state Senate introduced a resolution that rejected the new framework because, according to them, it presented a “radically revisionist view of American history” that minimized “discussion of America’s Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, [and] religious influences on our nation’s history” — Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Colorado, where comments made by Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams last fall led to Jefferson County students walking out of school in protest (Hartmann 2015).
Representative Fisher’s bill was approved by the Oklahoma House Education committee by an 11-4 vote (Legum 2015), along party lines (CBS 2015).
The way I see it, here’s the thing about history. It has happened, etched into stone, in contrast to a future that is merely scratched in sand. No amount of willing away the past will remove or re-write the past. It is irresponsible to refuse to acknowledge American historical shortcomings, as the means in which a culture moves forward into the future without making the same mistakes of their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, etc. is to understand those mistakes and their impacts, for that information is necessary to solve the equation of what to do later with a more beneficial result.
As a people, we cannot snap our fingers and blink away slavery, the systematic genocide of Native Americans, the Civil War, Jim Crow, Japanese internment during World War II, the nuclear program, and the slew of other atrocities and heinous acts this nation has committed over its 232-year history. American history has not been one that can be praised for its positives with more fervor than condemned for its negatives. Our history has been violent and oppressive, more so than our admirable and noble exploits. This isn’t something uniquely American either. The vast majority of world nations have histories skewed more in the direction of their faults than in their victories, with the difference being that these nations embrace their history and use it as a means to better the future of their people and their missions, whereas portions of America attempt to sweep the sullied aspects of our history under the rug and use exceptionalism as a way to justify it. It’s tragic, really, that we are so consumed by our exceptionalism that the faults of men and women, and the venomous events from our past, are relegated to dusty tomes and forgotten.
What makes this even worse is the constant barrage of misinformation lobbied at the public for socio-political idolatry. For example, despite what The Black Robe Regiment claims, there was no religious idealism in the founding of the United States. The Founding Fathers were men bothered by, and opposed to, religion, as is exemplified in the Constitution of the United States and various commentaries written by the men themselves before and after the birth of the nation. Thomas Jefferson wrote openly about the separation of church and state, while John Adams practically declared Christianity a plague upon human civilization. Furthermore, despite what the Conservative consensus on “progressive agendas” may be, progressivism has been fundamental in not only establishing the United States, but in every measure the nation has taken to better itself and the world around it. Progressivism, the favoring and implementation of social reform, has been an instrumental philosophy for Enlightenment thinking and the founding of the United States, the abolition of slavery, the dismantling of Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Acts, the improvements in workplace conditions, the development of educational standards, the right for women to vote, as well as the good the United States has done around the world in helping disaster victims and people displaced by war, famine, and pestilence. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, among others, were men in charge of this nation who had progressive sentiments, whether it be establishing a new nation outside of the fist of the British Empire, declaring people once considered property to be citizens, or enacting vast, sweeping changes that improved health, education, and safety for the American people.
Such changes may not have come without being able to look at our past, see the flaw, and work to remedy the consequences and build a more positive future. Rep. Dan Fisher’s proposal to gut AP U.S. History threatens the ability of the next generation to bear witness to the flaws of the past. It’s imperative for us, as a people, to understand the flaws of our past, for only through acknowledging our history and striving to be better than our history, can America brush away its sandy, insecure future and carve a virtuous present into stone left behind.
The Black Robe Regiment. “Welcome to The Black Robe Regiment.” Home. The Black Robe Regiment, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
CBS. “Oklahoma Lawmakers Target Advanced Placement History Courses.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
Hartmann, Margaret. “Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Voted to Ban AP U.S. History.” Daily Intelligencer. New York Magazine, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
Krehbiel, Randy. “Oklahoma Legislative Committee Questions Legality of Advanced Placement Courses in Public Schools.” Tulsa World. Tulsa World, 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
Legum, Judd. “Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly to Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History.” ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress, 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
Oklahoma (State). House of Representatives. House Bill No. 1380. 55th State Legislature, 1st Session, H.B. 1380. Oklahoma: n.p., 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.