In their seemingly-endless quest to destroy the American educational system, state-level conservative lawmakers have found a new drum to beat: banning Advanced Placement education in high schools.
AP courses provide real challenges for exceptional minds, and early college credits for college-bound students. I took AP English at my high school, and I can honestly say that it is the course I remember best, not only for the content and skill set I acquired, but for the unparalleled pedagogy my teacher used to instruct me. I still quote him today.
But it’s not just any old AP class that conservatives seek to demolish. It’s AP American History. Why? Two reasons, they say. One, the course as currently taught isn’t positive enough about American history and roles in domestic and world affairs. That’s arrant political bias. Two, it resembles Common Core, creating a national examination that is now anathema to conservatives (though it wasn’t a problem 30 years ago when I was studying AP). That’s the “logical” fall-back position.
Oklahoma in particular thinks that it has the solution. They want to teach what they call “foundational documents” – the Ten Commandments, Fundamentalist Christian sermons, and speeches by President Ronald Reagan. No speeches by Democrats after President Lyndon Baines Johnson would be included in this new curriculum. The Oklahoma bill proponent, Rep. Dan Fisher, maintains that the current AP curriculum makes “winners” of Progressives, and conservatives can’t have that. For more on this, read the article at Raw Story.
Reading about this started to make my eyes blur, so I looked around online for a good definition of education. These were my two favorites:
Education: The wealth of knowledge acquired by an individual after studying particular subject matters or experiencing life lessons that provide an understanding of something. Education requires instruction of some sort from an individual or composed literature. The most common forms of education result from years of schooling that incorporates studies of a variety of subjects.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Note that the dictionary definition stated “a variety of subjects.” The benefit of an education is not a list of facts or dates, but the ability to think critically, to learn continually, to change one’s mind, and to seek truth diligently. Variety is the key to providing such an education. Teaching American History as the subject of a Fundamentalist Christian pep squad rally, with no regard for non-White participants or the mistakes that our ancestors made, is not teaching American History. It’s teaching a single stripe in the American flag. What’s more, it is an offense to the millions of Americans, past and present, who were or are affected by mistakes made by American individuals and governments, many of which are just coming to light today. And if all of that fails, there is the Edmund Burke quote: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Learning White, male-centered, majoritarian history in which the USA is always right is NOT learning history. It is willfully ignorant self-congratulation and wholesale discrimination simultaneously.
If children are to be brought up in the way they should go, to be good citizens here and happy hereafter, they must be taught. It is idle to suppose that children will grow up good, while surrounded with wickedness, without cultivation. It is folly to suppose that they can become learned without education.
Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 273
Surely education of only a politically-selected sliver of matter cannot be deemed “cultivated.”
An official Church article, Education is a Commandment, provides these urgent pleas from Church leaders:
For members of the Church, education is not merely a good idea—it’s a commandment.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I hope that you are not afraid of tough classes. . . I never did have a ‘cinch’ class. . .You simply have to apply yourself. I hope that you want to be so well equipped that you can compete in this competitive world. I hope that you will learn to take responsibility for your decisions, whether they be in your courses of study which you elect to take, or whether they be in the direction of the academic attainments which you strive to achieve.
President Thomas S. Monson
Your mind is precious! It is sacred. Therefore, the education of one’s mind is also sacred. Indeed, education is a religious responsibility. Of course, our opportunities and abilities will vary a great deal. But, in the pursuit of one’s education, individual desire is more important than is the institution you choose; personal drive is more significant than is the faculty.
Elder Russell M. Nelson
LDS scripture contains numerous references to the importance of worldly and spiritual education, for the now and the hereafter:
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion. Amen.
These beg the definition of wisdom.
1. the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.
2. scholarly knowledge or learning
(n.b: one of the antonyms listed with this definition is “ignorance”)
LDS children are encouraged from their earliest years to study hard, to use their education for the benefit of others, to apply to colleges and universities, and to prepare to be good teachers to their own future families. Education is a commandment. Taking away balanced, advanced educational opportunities from LDS students is blocking them from reaching their potential, from following a commandment of their church.
Finally, teaching Christian documents of any kind in a secular curriculum is an offense to the First Amendment. In the 19th century, Mormons were persecuted and driven from Ohio west to the Utah Territory precisely because of their faith, so we have suffered religious persecution. The early Church also attempted to establish a theocracy in Utah, one which eventually failed. The Constitutional Rights Foundation has an excellent piece on this.
These lessons taught us that the separation of church and state as established in the First Amendment are crucial to being Mormon. Therefore, we follow the 12th Article of Faith: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” The First Amendment is the law of the land.
The 11th Article of Faith states: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” The proposed content of the Oklahoma class, at least, contains specifically Fundamentalist dogma with which Mormons do not agree. Its methodology champions one political view and one religious belief system “winning” over another. It is indoctrination in a specific belief system. Everything about teaching from anything short of the “best books” is anti-Mormon.