Oklahoma legislature distorts U.S. history



The word “American” has different connotations and meanings depending on who you ask. Some people hear “American” and it brings words like “freedom” and “liberty” to mind. For others, “imperialism” and “oppression” come to mind.

Regardless, an accurate representation of history is instrumental in ensuring that our society and government do not repeat the same mistakes that led to the marginalization and discrimination of other people.

When it comes to “American History,” legislators have to put aside their own desires and biases to ensure that the whole truth is taught to students — not a modified and skewed portrayal of the events that shaped the U.S.

Oklahoma legislators recently passed a bill that rejects the College Board course of AP U.S. History, which is accredited by many U.S. colleges and universities. In addition, the standards they proposed for the curriculum lack diversity in the topics that should be covered as well as the points of view that should be included in a U.S. History course.

The bill, HB 1380, reads, “By the 2015-2016 school year, the State Board of Education (of Oklahoma) shall identify and adopt a United States History program and corresponding test which school districts shall offer in lieu of the Advanced Placement United States History course and test offered by the College Board.”

My initial question with this kind of bill is that if you try to make a state-specific standard that varies from the commonly accepted standard for not only U.S. colleges and universities, but also international schools, will the class be of any use when it comes to applying for college?

If not, then was this bill created with students’ interests in mind or the personal interests and beliefs of the authors?

In the bill they outline “foundational and historical documents” that “shall form the base level of academic content” taught in all their U.S. History courses, including the first Inaugural Address made by Ronald Reagan, the 40th Anniversary of D-Day speech made by Reagan and the Brandenburg Gate speech made by Reagan.

While I don’t doubt that these particular documents can be used to teach students valuable points about U.S. history, I find it odd that three speeches were chosen from this particular president and no documents about the initial European landings in the Americas, or “How to kill millions of people with disease and advanced weaponry 101,” as I like to call it, were chosen.

Also neglected, unspecified or lacking an adequate presence on the list: the deaths and forced removal of millions of Native Americans in the early American territories, the use of slaves to support the agricultural industry and altogether the disenfranchisement of African-Americans, religious persecution and inequality in American society (Puritan roots, and the discussion of separation of church and state), gender inequality, economic inequality, and the mention of important international affairs (i.e. the Iran-Contra Affair, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and all the conflict in the Middle East).

If the list they provide in the bill is an abridged version of what will actually be the foundation of the course they create, then that might assuage my nerves.

But if this is the extent of what they are encouraging their already underpaid teachers to teach, then I fear for the students that must make do on this education.