(Editor: www.thereportcard.org Many prominent scholars, Dr. Peter Woods included have spoken out against the new College Board AP US History framework (APUSH) because it questions the concept of American Exceptionalism, and drops many significant events that have stood as important milestones in earlier American history courses. APUSH views American history through the lens of a leftish globalism that sees America as the problem in the world and not the solution. Dr. Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars, a conservative think tank, and his colleague Glenn Ricketts offers an important perspective on what should be taught in advanced placement American history classes. At the conclusion of the article there are a series of questions that every student of American history ought to be able to answer).
By Dr. Peter Wood, and Glenn Ricketts, National Association of Scholars
The National Council for History Education (NCHE) defends the new Advanced Placement U.S. History Standards (APUSH) by saying that they successfully focus on “historical thinking skills” such as “arguing from evidence,” rather than acquiring “a specific body of information.” NCHE admits that “historical thinking requires that students have some history to think about,” but dismisses critics of APUSH who say that APUSH’s view of American history is highly politicized. NCHE argues that APUSH leaves the high school teachers “considerable latitude” to decide what content to include.
Those who are critical of APUSH might benefit from a short statement of what should be included in an Advanced Placement U.S. History course. To that end, we offer a brief periodization mentioning some of the key topics, followed by a list of key questions that bear on student development of “historical thinking skills.”
Origins. 1492 to 1603. European encounter with native peoples of America. Exploration and Spanish-Portuguese rivalry.
The Colonial Period. 1603-1776. English, French, Dutch, Swedish Great Power conflicts. Economic and political experiments. Wars with native peoples. Slavery. Religious diversity, tolerance, and beginnings of religious freedom. Development of democratic institutions. First Great Awakening. Formation of national identity. Idea of American exceptionalism. Mercantilism. Benjamin Franklin.
The Founding. 1763- 1789. Aftermath of French and Indian War. Colonial discontent. Declaration of Independence. War for Independence. Revolutionary Articles of Confederation. U.S. Constitution. Bill of Rights. Intellectual and historical components of the Constitution. James Madison.
The Early Republic. 1789-1820. Forging national unity. Presidencies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe. Louisiana Purchase. Lewis & Clark Expedition. War of 1812. First Bank of the United States. Compact of States or Union of citizens? Rise of American literature. Eli Whitney. Robert Fulton.
The Era of Good Feeling and the Rise of Sectionalism. 1820-1860. Missouri Compromise. Nullification Crisis. Mexican-American War. Jacksonian democracy. Westward expansion and manifest destiny. Growth of industry. Second Great Awakening. California Gold Rush. Monroe Doctrine. First mass immigration. Intensification of slavery issue. Hot Air Decade of various reform movements. Seneca Falls. Rise of WTC. The Scarlet Letter; Moby Dick; Leaves of Grass.
The Civil War. 1860-1865. Election of Abraham Lincoln. Attempts at compromise. Fracturing of the Union. Long roots of the conflict. Comparative strengths of North and South. Key battles of the war. Emancipation Proclamation, 1863. Confederate surrender and assassination of Lincoln.
Reconstruction. 1865-1877. Andrew Johnson’s presidency. Status of former confederate states. Black Codes. Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. 14th amendment, 1868. Military occupation of south. Carpet baggers and Scalawags. First KKK. Corruption, North and South. Race relations before Jim Crow. Election of 1876 and the end of Reconstruction. Emily Dickenson.
The Gilded Age. 1877-1900. Rapid growth of industrialism and mass immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Rapid expansion of northern urban areas. Racial and religious tensions. American emergence as global economic power. Growth of trade and overseas contacts. Agrarianism and economic uncertainties. Racial tensions and imposition of segregation in Southern states, Plessy v. Ferguson. Spanish-American War and naval expansion. Anarchist Movement. Rapid growth of New Money and large corporations. Thomas Edison. Mark Twain. Henry James. Winslow Homer. Thomas Eakins. John Singer Sargent.
The Progressive Era. 1900-192O. Different themes of progressivism: political, economic, and social. Reform leaders and their social backgrounds. Rise of radical movements such as Wobblies. Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and the “big stick.” Growth of the Temperance movement and push for national women’s suffrage. Successes and failures of progressive reforms. WW I and the safety of democracy. Income tax. Wright brothers. Henry Ford.
The Roaring Twenties. 1920-1929. Prohibition (1919-1933). Return to “normalcy.” Isolation from European affairs. Main Street vs. Madison Ave. Economic prosperity and mass consumption. Nativism, Red Scares, and rise of new KKK. Technological innovations: movies and radio. Jazz. Culture clashes of the 1920s. Freud and Flappers. Washington Naval Treaty, the League of Nations and disarmament. Lost Generation.
The Great Depression. 1929-1940. Causes of the Crash of 1929: new interpretations. European vs. American rates of recovery. Rise of extremist politics: Coughlin and Long. FDR and the New Deal. Expansion of federal regulatory power and creation of the modern welfare state. The New Deal re-assessed. Elections of 1938 and the end of the New Deal. Rise of Adolf Hitler in Europe and Japanese militarism in Pacific. Big bands. WPA in the arts. Rise of the Popular Front.
World War Two. 1940-1945. Military stagnation and isolationism. Growing tension in Pacific. Rapid advance of Hitler’s military machine and FDR’s support for Great Britain. Public aversion to intervention and “mistake of 1917.” Election of 1940 and FDR’s third term. Pearl Harbor attack and entry into war in Pacific and Europe. Principal battles and final defeat of Axis powers. Alliance with Britain, USSR and hidden tensions prior to 1945. Creation of UN and high public expectations.
The Cold War, 1945-1989. Yalta conference, public views of USSR. Clash of issues or ideas? Containment policy. Nature of Stalinist regime. Communization of Eastern Europe. Chinese Communist revolution. Korean War. Growth of nuclear arsenals. McCarthyism. Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. The Space race. LBJ and Viet Nam. Nixon and Détente. Reagan and collapse of USSR. American domination of modernist movement in the arts.
Prosperity and Discontent – Civil Rights Movement. Sexual Revolution. Drugs. Vietnam War. Feminism. Moral Majority and evangelical Christians. Expansion of suburbs. Affluent origins of radicalism and protest movements. Great Society and War on Poverty. Massive expansion of federal programs and regulations. Crime in cities. Nixon administration and Watergate. Rise of mass higher education.
Pax Americana or the Age of Terror? 1989-present. America as sole superpower. Chinese/American economic rivalry. Post-communist Russia and America. Emergence of militant Islam. Decline of cities, growth of the New Class and Generation X. Impact of 9/11 terror attacks. Immigration issues. Culture wars, cont’d: marriage, sexuality and lifestyle issues. Nuclear terrorism? Environmentalism and society. Cultural contradictions of capitalism.
- North America was colonized by European countries that were not democracies, but a democratic political system emerged from Great Britain’s colonies. How did this happen? What factors contributed to the development of a system of government in America that differed so profoundly from its direct antecedents?
- Several times in its history, America has received massive influxes of immigrants, who often were of different religious, ethnic or racial backgrounds than those already living in the US. Why did they come? What in particular do you think attracted them? Why has there never been a mass exodus of people leaving the US?
- How does the American Experience differ from the experiences of other peoples around the world? Are we an “apart nation” as President Benjamin Harrison once noted? Or just one nation among many that differs from the others in detail but not in any fundamental way?
- How do the major reform eras in American history compare? What can be said about the Hot Air decade of the 1840s, the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, the New Deal reforms of the 1930s, and the reform movements of the 1960s?
- What are some possible views of the Founding? Most of the framers came from privileged backgrounds. To what extent should this be factored into an understanding of the Constitution and the political institutions established by it? Why did they choose to ban titles of nobility and other aspects of aristocracy in the United States? Does it matter that they emphasized a “republic” as opposed to a “democracy” in the new Constitution?
- Could the Civil War have been avoided? Abraham Lincoln is sometimes faulted for not making a last compromise attempt to save the union. Was this realistic, or were North and South irreconcilable by the time Lincoln was elected? If the war could have been avoided, how?
- Americans have been conflicted over their relationship with government from the beginning of American history. There was wide public support for the New Deal reforms of the 1930s, but so far only tepid endorsement of the idea of government health care or welfare support. Why should this be? Is there an “average” view of the role of government?
- The Cold War was seen by most Americans as a response to Soviet aggression and an attempt to “contain” the expansion of communism. Later a “revisionist” school of historians blamed the Cold War on America’s own aggressive tendencies. Which thesis better explains this prolonged conflict? Does the way it ended, with the Soviet Union’s internal collapse, bear on which interpretation is correct?
- Lord Bryce, the British ambassador to the United States (YEARS) held that great men do not become presidents of the United States. Was he right?
- America has often been the subject of scrutiny by gifted foreign observers, including Crèvecoeur, Trollope, Dickens, De Toqueville, Weber, and many more. How accurate were their portraits of the country? Why do their assessments continue to attract substantial interest from Americans?
- American art and literature began in frank imitation of European styles and genres but quickly gained its own distinctive outlook and voice, and in some periods came to dominate over its European counterparts. How did this happen?
- America has fought many wars over its relatively short history. Was this an accident or the result of compelling external threats? Is there a distinctive American way of fighting wars?