Education History

Revisionism

Tennessee Republicans are challenging Advanced Placement standards in their state, joining their counterparts at the RNC in opposition to what they call “revisionist.”

From The Tennessean:

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, have requested the Tennessee State Board of Education to conduct a review of new framework and materials used in the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. History. [...]

“There are many concerns with the new APUSH framework, not the least of which is that it pushes a revisionist interpretation of historical facts,” echoed Gresham in a statement on Tuesday. “The items listed as required knowledge have some inclusions which are agenda-driven, while leaving out basic facts that are very important to our nation’s history.”

If this so-called revisionist interpretation is “agenda-driven,” what agenda is it serving?

While not explicitly labeled by lawmakers in Tennessee, it seems fairly clear that they believe it’s being driven by a liberal (read: anti-American) agenda just as their counterparts at the RNC have alleged.

The Advanced Placement standards for U.S. History do not shy away from some of our nation’s less than exemplary moments, something the RNC says is “revisionist” and “leftist.” And if words continue to have no meaning — which we’ve established that they don’t — an accurate and truthful recounting of events could be called revisionist in a very Orwellian fashion.

It’s enlightening that conservatives believe we should mirror the educational practices of nations they would call enemies where history is selectively taught or censored to paint a more sympathetic version of the state.

To say that being honest about our past is “leftist” is not an insult to me, but it is a corrosive line of attack that undermines our institutions.

  • Christopher Foxx

    The Advanced Placement standards for U.S. History do not shy away from some of our nation’s less than exemplary moments, something the RNC says is “revisionist” and “leftist.”

    Well, of course. Because it’s folks on the left who are vastly more interested in truth and facts. So the RNC could have just as well said the standards are “factual” and “truthful”. It would mean the same thing in their minds: something to be avoided.

    • muselet

      A number of years ago, there was a noisy protest about something (I believe it was the Smithsonian exhibition about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I could be misremembering), and the favorite term of opprobrium thrown out by the protesters was “revisiionist historians.”

      A historian was asked about this and he replied that “revisionist historian” was redundant, that it was the job of a historian to revise the standard explanation of events based on previously-unknown information.

      Only in the fevered imaginings of the Right is there a vast, Left-wing conspiracy to turn the teaching of history into a gigantic flag-burning ceremony.

      –alopecia

      • Christopher Foxx

        and the favorite term of opprobrium thrown out by the protesters was “revisiionist historians.”

        “Revisionist historians”
        “Activist judges”

        They got to create those imaginary bogey men where they can, ’cause when you’re arguing against truth and accuracy make-believe enemies is all you have.

      • Christopher Foxx

        A historian was asked about this and he replied that “revisionist historian” was redundant, that it was the job of a historian to revise the standard explanation of events based on previously-unknown information.

        In other words, a “revisionist historian” is one who is trying to apply more perspective and truth to history. As an “activist judge” is one who is following the requirements of the law.

        Orwell would love today’s Republicans.

        • muselet

          Actually, Orwell would more likely be screaming at Righties, “I wasn’t writing a bloody instruction manual, you maniacs!”

          –alopecia

          • Christopher Foxx

            True, true.

            It is difficult to believe anyone could love Republicans.

  • mr spork

    I’m so glad I graduated high school in the late ’90s. Before the Tennessee legislature went insane.

  • muselet

    … [I]t comes a year after the same two senators took on social studies textbooks they said were biased, a push that resulted in lawmakers getting new say on who sits on the state’s textbook commission.

    Dolores Gresham and Mike Bell clearly believe education is too important to leave to mere educators. Instead, education should be controlled by elected officials with a particular ideological ax to grind.

    This will not benefit Tennessee high school students at all.

    –alopecia

    • Christopher Foxx

      Instead, education should be controlled by elected officials with a particular ideological ax to grind.

      The insanity is that they correctly see letting ideology dictate curricula as a bad thing, but utterly fail to see that they are the ones doing it.

      • muselet

        Gresham and Bell—and, apparently, the majority of the Tennessee legislature—care only that they are the ones setting ideological goals for education, not them damn librul communistical union-lovin’ *turn around three times, spit on the ground* teachers.

        It’s a lot like the creation of Fox News Channel, or at least its initial marketing: You’re surrounded by liberal news, and FNC is the conservative counterweight.

        I can’t imagine how exhausing it must be to live in such a constant state of anger (because reality doesn’t conform to one’s prejudices) and terror (ditto)

        –alopecia

        • Christopher Foxx

          I can’t imagine how exhausing it must be to live in such a constant state of anger

          They balance it out by also living in a constant state of ignorance, which takes little effort.