Friday, August 28, 2015

A Funny Definition of Winning on AP American History Standards


The Wall Street Journal posted an article recently entitled "Hey Conservatives, You Won." The article discussed recent changes made to the Advanced Placement U.S. History standards used by High Schools across the nation. The article made the point that the College Board, who writes the standards, recently moved the standards far to the left but backed off due to widespread backlash against the changes. Their latest revision to the standards include many changes that should be lauded by conservatives.

In the Localist view, the WSJ article misses the whole point. It obsesses on the battle for the Left-Right political spectrum, but completely ignores the just-as-important Up-Down spectrum. The real problem is not what particular standards the College Board picks. Its not even that the hard-left College Board is the entity which picks the standards. The real problem is the national standards themselves. National standards are the antithesis of educational freedom. Parents and citizens feel like they have no control over the standards - because they don't. The decisions are all made by people too far away from the individual for them to have an impact. The only way they can even pretend to have a say in the outcome is to join some collective which lobbies the national rule-makers. Centralization of power therefore makes operational collectivists of us all, even if we dislike collectivism as a philosophy.

My analysis of the left-right battle on these standards is simple. Conservatives are putting themselves in position to lose simply by accepting the template that dickering over national standards run by the College Board is the place to fight. The fight should be on whether we even have national standards for AP history, not on what particular standards by the College Board (or any other single entity) are chosen for all AP students in a nation of 320 million people. The unknown (to most Americans), un-elected and unaccountable persons on this board should not have more say over what the AP History Standards are in Pea Ridge, Arkansas than do the parents and school board of the Pea Ridge school district. As it is, the former has all control, and the latter none. That is the real problem, not what is or is not on the national list.

The College Board is hard left. They got some heat for pushing their view of things too far, so they backed off some. But they still write the standards for the whole nation. It is not like there are competing ideas of what standards should be that have a near-equal market share. They may have been pushed right for now, but when there is less attention on them they will more slowly push leftward. When one side wins by advancing their objective and the other side is strictly reactionary- defining "victory" as sometimes reversing the advances that the other side invariably initiates, then the ultimate outcome is not in doubt. This process is very similar to what I wrote on the Hegelian Dialectic. It is used all the time to slowly push a population one way or the other.

But maybe the people who really run our nation will one day decide that right-fascism is better for business than left-fascism. At that point the left will lose and the right will win. Either way, in the best case scenario almost half the nation will be unhappy. The localist solution is to reject the idea of top-down imposed national standards. Let the market pick the standards in each state, or even each school district. Many standards will be shared in common just because they are good standards, not because they are imposed.

Under localist ideas about education standards, parents in left-leaning areas will be happy, and so will those in right-leaning areas. Not only will they be happy, but they will have some say over what happens in that particular area of their lives. That's what we need more of. Right now individual people, left, right, or whatever, feel powerless. They feel like all decisions are made for them by "deciders" too far away for them to influence. They feel this way because it is this way, and becoming more so everyday. This is exactly what Localism seeks to change. The media only pays attention to the left-right axis. The up-down axis is at least as important.