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Conservatives Are Furious Over the New A.P. History Curriculum

They want less bashing of America, more hailing of American ideals

There’s a new fight over the curriculum in American high schools, and this time it’s not about evolution or new math. The issue is U.S. History—specifically, advanced placement U.S. history.

Earlier this year, the College Board announced that it was modifying its model curriculum for the course. Conservatives are not at all happy about the changes. The new curriculum, they say, emphasizes negative aspects of U.S. history while giving short shrift to the nation’s triumphs. While the College Board has no formal power over what schools teach, it writes the test that A.P. students will take at the end of the year. For that reason, school systems tend to pay attention to what the College Board says. But in some more conservative parts of the country, authorities are resisting.

Earlier this month, the state Board of Education in Texas ordered school districts to use a statewide curriculum, rather than the College Board’s. In the western suburbs of Denver, the Jefferson County School Board is weighing a proposal to create a special committee for reviewing the history curriculum and notifying the board of objectionable material. What would qualify as “objectionable”? According to the proposal,

Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.

Education values, via PewThat proposal has sparked a backlash. Last week, dozens of students from one Denver-area school walked out of class and took carpools over to the district headquarters, in order to protest what they said was an attempt to censor their educations. The kids organized the protest on Facebook and had several parents alongside them, as a show of support.

If you want to learn more about the merits of the debate, Stanley Kurtz of National Review has written the definitive conservative critique, while Jamelle Bouie of Slate written a liberal rejoinder. I can’t say I’ve spent enough time with the curriculum to offer an informed judgment of my own. But it occurs to me that this controversy is part of a familiar divide in American politics. Just last week, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a study on the different priorities liberals and conservatives have for education. Conservatives want schools to emphasize faith and obedience, while liberals are more likely to care about teaching tolerance and curiosity. You can guess how each group would react to a curriculum that asked some hard questions about U.S. history.

Jonathan Cohn

News from the weekend

CLIMATE: New federal data shows U.S. pollution from power plants went up last year. But there's a silver lining: Obama's first-term climate initiatives—fuel-efficient cars and clean energy—seem to be helping slow the growth in emissions. (Joby WarrickWashington Post)

FERGUSON: As protests flared over the weekend, a male officer was shot in the arm in Ferguson. The officer was not killed and it appears the shooting was unrelated to the protests. Last week, Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson apologized for the death of Michael Brown, further inflaming protesters who are demanding the arrest of officer Darren Wilson. (Ashley SouthallNew York Times)
OBAMACARE: There's a new problem with the "narrow networks" in many private plans, paritcularly those available through Obamacare's marketplaces. Patients who go to emergency rooms are paying huge bills when out-of-network doctors take care of them, even if the hospitals they visited are in-network. (Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times)
ECONOMY: Economist Pavlina Tcherneva has found an incredible new way to look at inequality. She examines which people got the biggest income gains during economic expansions. More and more, it's the wealthiest 10 percent getting that money. (Neil Irwin, The Upshot)
Articles worth reading 

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How to change police behavior: Rachel Cohen says that if settlements for police misconduct came out of department budgets, rather than general funds for local governments, departments would act more aggresively to stop abuse. (American Prospect

Lawsuits that shouldn't exist: Hank Greenberg, the former CEO of AIG, is suing the U.S. government for not offering as sweet a bailout to the insurance company as the government did to banks during the financial crisis. The trial gets underway Monday. Last week, Alec MacGillis explained just how absurd it really is. Today, Dave Dayen argues that there could be a silver lining to the suit: We'll finally get to know a lot more about the bailout. (The New Republic)
Surprise! National Review came out in favor of other-the-counter (OTC) birth control. NR's move follows multiple GOP candidates who have announced their support for OTC birth control as well. Rebecca Leber recently explained why liberals are so suspicious of these moves. (QED)
Stories we'll be watching today
India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, meets with President Obama at the White House. Climate change is sure to come up. Rebecca has a primer.
Conservatives think Obamacare is too generous. But the opposite may be true: It turns out that some people who bought the last generous, "bronze" plans are having trouble paying their out-of-pocket costs. Also, you might want to check out Jeffrey Rosen's interview with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.