My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

September 6, 2022: APUSH Studying: The Evolving Framework

[I’m not the only one gearing up for a new school year at the moment—so are my 11th and 10th grade (!!!) sons. That includes my 11th grader taking AP US History, a complicated and controversial and very AmericanStudies high school class. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy a handful of APUSH contexts—share your responses and your thoughts on all things high school US history for a crowd-sourced weekend post sure to make the honor roll!]

On two particular details I would highlight about the Fall 2020 APUSH framework.

First things first: a significant part of the “controversy” over the last couple APUSH frameworks is, as it has been each time there have been such “debates,” manufactured by anti-education forces looking for any opportunity to attack and undermine public education in America. Those arguments are not made in the slightest bit of good faith, and to my mind the only appropriate and effective way to engage them is to point that out clearly and consistently. However, that doesn’t mean that the frameworks for a class like APUSH—perhaps the single most shared space in which high school students learn about American history—don’t represent a hugely important place to talk about how we teach US history, what is particularly included and foregrounded, what has changed over time, through what kinds of sources and documents the history gets taught, and so on. Obviously there’s way more in those topics than I’m able to engage in one blog post (or even a weeklong series), but I did want to take this opportunity to share a couple interesting details from the most recent such framework (which is at that first hyperlink above, and all of which is worth checking out for sure).

For the first, I want to lean into an aspect of the “controversy” question by examining the introductory section (on page 18) entitled “The Founding Documents.” The framework doesn’t state this in so many words, but there’s a clear underlying assumption throughout this section that APUSH teachers might or might not choose to “teach the founding documents and the ideas they express in depth during the course.” And that’s good! I know you might expect this (increasingly) grumpy old AmericanStudier to say that of course those documents and ideas need to be taught and analyzed, and I do believe that that’s the case. But I believe even more strongly that no subject or source for this class (or any class) should be taken for granted—that it’s crucial to think openly and critically about every possible subject and source, especially those that might seem obvious or given. I really appreciate that before the authors of this framework get into the specifics, they create a space for that conversation about what might seem to be the most obvious such subjects/sources for APUSH, making the case for engaging them but also making clear that teachers and students alike can and should be part of that conversation and decision.

The second detail I want to highlight is about the Course Content section, and specifically about how the Units/Periods are organized (as illustrated in the Table of Contents on page 27). I really, really love the definitions of, as well as the overlap and relationship between, Unit 5 (Period 5: 1844-1877) and Unit 6 (Period 6: 1865-1898). Unit 5 does a great job exploding the over-emphasis on the Civil War, thinking about slavery and abolition through the lenses of the pre-war period as well as Reconstruction (and including the latter as part of that history, rather than the afterthought it far too often is presented as). Unit 6 does start with the end of the Civil War but smartly concludes with the year of the Wilmington coup and massacre (among other histories) to think through the post-war rise of white supremacy and exclusion. And as much as I appreciate those individual definitions, I think I’m an even bigger fan of the fact that there’s that dozen years of overlap between the two Units/Periods—it would be certainly understandable to create a fully chronological group of sections for a class like this, but history isn’t nearly so cleanly divided, and overlapping the Units allows for students to think through such interconnections as they move across the APUSH course content.  

Next APUSH context tomorrow,


PS. What do you think? Contexts or stories for APUSH or high school history you’d share? Great teachers you’d highlight?

No comments:

Post a Comment