History cannot be changed


By Boswell Hutson

I went to high school in Monticello, Illinois, a small town about 20 minutes west of campus. My graduating class had fewer than 150 students and our town has two stop lights. All that being said, despite having fewer resources than some larger schools, our district always did the best they could to prepare students for higher education.

We had only two advanced placement courses at my high school ­— AP Chemistry and AP United States History — and as a fairly good rule of thumb, most students who were on the college prep track at Monticello High School took one or both of these courses. In a place where options were few, AP U.S. History was easily the most enriching class I took in high school.

That’s why it came as such a shock to me when it was announced that an Oklahoma state House of Representatives committee voted to strike AP U.S. History from the curriculum from every public school in the state. Representative Dan Fisher, the sponsor of the bill, attacked AP U.S. History courses for having a negative view on American history and destroying the idea of “American Exceptionalism,” or that the U.S. is the world’s savior and can do no wrong. This is perhaps one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard, and due to the closed-mindedness of Republican politicians, thousands of kids have to suffer.

First and foremost, “American Exceptionalism” doesn’t exist.

We’re not inherently better than anyone else just because we’re American. I know this may be hard for some super-patriots to accept, but in an increasingly globalized and progressive world, this is becoming more and more true. In 2013, the United Nations Development Programme released a world education index, which ranked the United States at fifth in the world in overall education, which is a pretty acceptable ranking.

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However, it isn’t great enough to allow us to manipulate and write our own history.

Many subjects within the course are about all aspects of American culture. Some instances, like Paul Revere taking his magical ride or Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, are fairly remarkable and deserve high praise.

Perhaps people take issue with other aspects of American History: Columbus’ massacre and enslavement of indigenous populations or that big thing called slavery, which are less glamorous.

But that contradiction is just the way history is.

The beautiful thing about it is that we can’t manipulate it. Instead, we have to learn from it, which many students won’t be able to do if they’re getting a more distorted, manipulated version of history.

AP U.S. History was so useful to me, and many other current students at the University, because it told us the whole story we never really got in textbooks until that point.

It allows students to dive deeper into history than what is relatively common knowledge — even if some of that is bleak and uncensored.

My message to Dan Fisher, and anyone else supporting the removal of AP U.S. History from Oklahoma’s public curriculum (or any state’s), is that no person is strong enough to censor history.

We are a country that rose to power amid race relations we now think deplorable, genocide that most history courses never acknowledge and slavery, which is widely regarded as an egregious human rights violation.

There are dirty parts of our history, and if we want to adequately prepare our students for college, leaving this out of their curriculum is nothing short of deceptive.

All of this, of course, goes without mentioning the students, who will be at an inherent disadvantage due to the lack of this AP course.

When a University of Illinois admissions officer sits down to compare high school transcripts of applicants, and a student from Kansas has AP U.S. History, while a student from Oklahoma was never afforded the opportunity, the student from Kansas will almost certainly be considered as having had more rigorous coursework than the student from Oklahoma, thus putting students from Oklahoma who apply to college in a terrible situation from which they have no escape.

This idea to ban AP U.S. History is only in committee in Oklahoma, but even that is enough cause for concern in itself. When those who deny the bad parts of our history call for the abolishment of AP U.S. History courses, not only are we feeding students distorted views, but we’re also placing those students affected in a helpless situation where they are institutionally disadvantaged.

Nice one, Oklahoma, you’re really looking out for the well being of the entire population. I’m glad I got the opportunity to take AP U.S. History, and I hope that the future generation of students preparing for college are allowed the opportunity, no matter what color their state is on election night.

Boswell is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].