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National Review Alleges Conspiracy That 'Politicized' AP U.S. History Exam

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AP Photo / Ben Birchall

According to Kurtz, the College Board's redesign of the exam is linked to an "attack on American exceptionalism" and "a highly politicized and left-leaning approach to American history."

"The College Board’s new and vastly more detailed guidelines can only be interpreted as an attempt to hijack the teaching of U.S. history on behalf of a leftist political and ideological perspective," he wrote. "The College Board has drastically eroded the freedom of states, school districts, teachers, and parents to choose the history they teach their children."

Kurtz linked multiple of the framework’s authors to a "conclave of historians with a left-wing foreign policy agenda," including Ted Dickson, AP U.S. history teacher in North Carolina.

“There was no political agenda," Dickson told TPM on Tuesday. "There was no political motivation whatsoever. And in fact, a lot of the people involved in the process, I would argue, have been at different ends of the political spectrum."

Dickson noted that his father was a Republican politician in elected office and that growing up he helped his father with his work. Dickson said that his approach to history is more about promoting "civic engagement."

"I don’t care what your politics are as long as long as you’re actively involved trying to make the country a better place," he said.

Conservatives have been criticizing the new framework for the exam since it was first released.

Larry Krieger, a retired history teacher, wrote a lengthy critique of the new framework in March. And in August, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution condemning the exam framework's "radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects."

Critics take issue with the exam's "negative" view of history and the omission of certain historical figures and events from the framework, including some of the Founding Fathers.

Dickson disagreed. "The framework is not taking a point of view," he said. "I don’t think there’s a negative view of the United States. I think that you could probably selectively pull a few things out of the framework if you wanted to try to claim that there is negativity, but you could probably try to do the same thing and show a positive interpretation."

The College Board president and the authors of the new framework have defended the framework.

In an open letter last week, the authors wrote that much of the criticism has resulted from "a misunderstanding of U.S. history." They said that they developed a more detailed framework based on input from AP history teachers who asked for more guidance on what would be in the exam.

The new framework does not remove any names or events, the authors argue. It allows teachers to fill in coursework with topics required in state standards. The exam focuses less on small details and more on analysis of documents and students' ability to compare different historians' points of view about an event.

"Debate and disagreement are central to the discipline of history, and thus to AP U.S. History as well," the authors of the exam wrote. "The goal is to help students acquire a strong command of historical facts and then to be able to understand, formulate, and critique different interpretations of the past and of its meaning for today."