New AP history guide stirs up debate, controversy about education in Colorado

Partisan politics have surfaced in K-12 education in Colorado, bringing to the state’s backyard a debate hinging on American Exceptionalism — or lack thereof — in a new Advanced Placement U.S. History framework.

AP history and other AP courses have their frameworks developed each year by the College Board, a nonprofit created in 1900. With those guides come key concepts for teachers to focus on in the classroom. The new framework is in place for Colorado’s roughly 5,500 AP U.S. History students now.

Proponents argue that at its best, the new framework encourages critical thinking in high school history classrooms.

But opponents like Larry Krieger, a former AP History teacher in New Jersey who now writes self-help books to help students pass AP tests, disagree.

“The College Board authors take exception to American Exceptionalism. They’ve scrubbed it out of the framework,” Krieger said in a phone interview Friday morning.

Krieger will get to share his views in an information session/debate during the Colorado State Board of Education’s meeting Wednesday.

His opponent is University of Northern Colorado’s director of history education, Fritz Fischer.

For Krieger, the forum is small compared to the audience he has reached during his meteoric rise to national prominence as an APUSH framework dissenter.

He’s been featured online at such conservative institutions as The Heartland Institute, The National Review and Newsweek gave Krieger and his cause a glowing profile on Aug. 14.

Krieger won’t go to the expense of attending the Wednesday board meeting in person. Instead, he’ll be a face on an electronic screen. But he’ll be more than prepared for battle.

“I’m an expert,” Krieger said. “That’s a fact. Fischer’s written a couple of books. I have them. I’ve written over 30 books, so I’m more than prepared.”

The debate comes in response to a resolution removed from the Colorado State Board of Education’s Aug. 14 meeting agenda. That resolution, developed by the board’s Republican majority, including Chairman Paul Lundeen, called on the College Board to delay and rewrite the framework.

“I’m concerned about anything that leads away or demeans the nobility that is inherent in the history of America,” Lundeen said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Lundeen is a businessman from Colorado Springs. He’s not a historian.

Fischer, who is also the chair emeritus of the National Council for History Education, has a major problem with that. His book, “The Memory Hole: The U.S. History Curriculum Under Siege,” argues against adapting historical events to fit current political views.

That phenomenon usually comes from people “with no background in history,” Fischer said.

Fischer wrote Lundeen and the Colorado State Board of Education a scathing letter regarding the resolution’s characterization of the new framework as “radically revisionist.”

Fischer also took exception to the notion that the new APUSH framework differed radically from Colorado’s academic standards for social studies.

“I felt it was my responsibility as the chair of the committee that wrote the (social studies) standards (in 2009) to respond to that one line in the resolution,” Fischer said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Somebody needed to tell them that whoever wrote that piece was absolutely wrong.”

With about 500,000 students across the United States taking AP U.S. History each year, the fight to be right is big.

And while neither side wants to be painted into a corner, both seem more than willing to use that paintbrush on their opponents.

The College Board, Krieger and others argue, published a framework with a “relentlessly negative” tone.

Krieger and those in his camp, Fischer and others would say, want to whitewash the bad aspects of American history.

The debate will rage. The winner, as the cliché goes, will write the history books.

Tyler Silvy covers education for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at Connect with him at or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.


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