High school history and civics courses are the first line of defense for preparing children to be engaged and active citizens in the political process. As many have noted, American education is often lackluster, glossing over inequities and injustices in American history and society. But America's conservatives only want to make our educational system even more right-wing and parochial.
Here are five ways they're trying to make sure kids get only the most conservative worldviews in the classroom.
- Revising AP U.S. History To Make It More Nationalistic: Over the past year, conservatives nationwide have complained that Advanced Placement U.S. history courses are too left-wing, focusing too much on gross injustices like slavery and Jim Crow. This campaign has born fruit, with new AP standards being released that now include a section on “American exceptionalism” – the greatness of the American experiment, essentially – and a more “neutral” tone in areas of history critics felt were too “anti-American."
- Trying To Ban AP U.S. History Altogether: The successful campaign to make national history standards more nationalistic was started by GOP lawmakers all over the country who are simply trying to ban the courses from high school altogether. This effort was spearheaded in Oklahoma, and became a cause celebre for Republican lawmakers all over the country.
- Controlling the History Textbook Market: One of the nation's largest textbook markets is in Texas, which is such a large state that when changes are made to textbooks there, they tend to impact what's published and sold in other states. There are battles on almost an annual basis to revise these textbooks to be more conservative, with extreme religious advocates pushing for designating America as a “Christian nation.”
- Koch-Approved Education: In North Carolina, a Koch-backed group is developing a curriculum for K-12 students, even using grant money from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, meaning that a politicized right-wing organization is essentially being paid by taxpayers to help indoctrinate kids.
- Eliminating Courses That Teach Critical Thinking: In Arizona, the right-wing war on education took the form of an outright ban on ethnic studies courses in public schools. Opponents of the ban are currently fighting it in federal court.
U.S.history as it is taught today is far from left-wing. But just as the right wages war against the so-called liberal media, their movement seems to understand that they can shift our society even further to the right by ignoring reality and crafting their own.