I would like to apologize to my regular readers for: 1) the lack of posts lately; 2) the fact I am going to be going off topic again. But I have something important to say about a current news issue because I have an insider’s perspective on it that will be of interest.
In addition to my day job as a history professor from 2004 to 2015 (except 2005), the first week of each June, I served as a participant at the annual reading for the AP U.S. History exam. Until 2006, the reading was held in San Antonio, Texas, and since then in Louisville, Kentucky. I will not be going back in 2016 not only because it was simply getting too hard to read AP written responses by day and teach my online classes in the evening (online professors do not get summer break), but also because after the 2015 reading the Educational Testing Service (ETS) terminated me for violating its social media policy. (See the screen shots of the Twitter posts in question at the bottom of this piece). They were pretty innocuous, but obviously ETS did not feel that way. I only reveal them because after publishing this blog post, ETS and the College Board are likely to paint me as a disgruntled former employee. But if I am that, I have important things to reveal that only a longtime insider would know about AP U.S. History (APUSH for short) and I have backed up my analysis as much as possible from the College Board’s own publications.
Certainly, there is a lot to be concerned about in regard to APUSH. For the past year, since the release of its revised curriculum it has been under a withering attack from the political right, who saw the new curriculum as overly politically correct and insufficiently deferential to the Whiggish great man theory of American exceptionalism many conservatives adore. In other words, they believe APUSH should serve their notion of civil religion and not be overly critical of the American experience. Basically, in the past few days, the College Board, which administers APUSH (ETS handles the logistics of the distributing and scoring the exam) has caved into this pressure and announced its re-revision the curriculum to appease its conservative critics. Here are some links to relevant media articles to provide background: 1) Newsweek; 2) Slate; 3) Washington Post.
While the craven attitude displayed by the College Board is distressing, it is merely symptomatic of a larger problem with this organization and the entire Advanced Placement program. To wit, the fact that increasingly the ostensibly non-profit College Board runs APUSH and the other increasing number of AP subject areas as a profit-maximizing business. In other words, this current episode is merely the latest of questionable moves by the College Board which call into question its non-profit status and that of its long-time partner, ETS. The College Board some time ago seems to have largely ditched its mission with Advanced Placement of bridging the gap between secondary and higher education that helps justify its non-profit status, and now sees APUSH and its fellow AP programs as revenue sources to be milked for all they are worth. And the College Board and ETS have become extremely sensitive to any threat to their cash cow.
Since my dismissal, I have been perusing the College Board’s own publications to take stock and make sense of my eleven years participating in the APUSH reading. I have assembled my thoughts into a scholarly analysis of the problems afflicting APUSH due to the direction that College Board has taken it. I originally published this piece anonymously, but given the problems calling attention to it (the only readers ironically were from the College Board), I have decided to seize the moment and come out of shadows to make my case. I wrote the following piece under the pseudonym “Ida Tarbell” (given my muckraking I hope she would forgive me for appropriating her identity). It can be found under the blog: https://notesfromtheapushbunker.wordpress.com/.
I invite those interested to read this piece, which is entitled, “The Real Problem with AP U.S. History: Greed and Deceit.” It’s a bit over 5,000 words total. For convenience, it is split into two parts. Please feel free to share your feedback on it either on that blog or this one, or privately with me at email@example.com. I would especially encourage other current and former APUSH readers to chime in with your perspectives.