Fox Cherry-Picks From AP History Guidelines To Hype Fears That “U.S. History May Be History”

Fox News host Steve Doocy claimed that the College Board has “all but dismissed” seminal works in American history for use in advanced placement courses -- including the Mayflower Compact, the Gettysburg Address, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have A Dream' speech -- to raise fears that “U.S. history may be history” in American schools.  

Fox News has spent the week hyping an open letter published by the National Association of Scholars (NAS), a conservative group critical of the Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History Course framework that the College Board released last year. Fifty-five scholars signed the letter, which claims the revised guidelines focus on “the conflict between social groups” rather than “sources of national unity and cohesion.”  An NAS press release about the letter says the new framework “ignores American exceptionalism.”

In a “Trouble with Schools” segment on June 12, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that “seminal works in the canon of American history have been all but dismissed by the new guidelines for the AP History issued by the College Board.” Guest Whitney Neal, of the Bill of Rights Institute, said the College Board changed the guidelines “because they have an agenda to push.” 

While Doocy's main concern was his belief that the College Board has eliminated “seminal works,” including the Gettysburg Address, the Mayflower Compact, and Rev. King's 'I Have A Dream' speech, Neal claimed that the biggest change has to do with how the board addressed the founding of America, arguing they ignored the role of religion. However, when an incredulous-sounding Doocy asked, “So they've left the religion part out?” Neal conceded, “It's there ... almost like as an afterthought, right? It's kind of like down the page a couple.” 

There are several problems with Doocy and Neal's claims. One of the biggest is that they are attacking a set of guidelines, not a strict formula for how to teach AP U.S. History, which has always been up to individual schools and teachers. The College Board has responded to similar criticism before by pointing out that “a framework doesn't dictate curriculum, it only guides it. And it is absurd to conclude that teachers wouldn't teach such important issues as part of American history.”

Second, even though College Board doesn't decide which primary sources or “seminal works” are used in each classroom, the primary sources that they recommend haven't changed since 2006, and still include all of the works Doocy claimed have been “dismissed.”

Finally, Neal's claim that the guidelines only mention religion and religious freedom as an afterthought ignores one of the new guideline's learning objectives. “Peopling” directly addresses the role of religion in U.S. history, and the guidelines for “Period 3: 1754-1800” make several references to religion's role in America's founding.