by Daniel Henninger
In this summer of agitated discontent for American conservatives, we can report a victory for them, assuming that is still permitted.
Last year, the College Board, the nonprofit corporation that controls all the high-school Advanced Placement courses and exams, published new guidelines for the AP U.S. history test. They read like a left-wing dream. Obsession with identity, gender, class, crimes against the American Indian and the sins of capitalism suffused the proposed guidelines for teachers of AP American history.
As of a few weeks ago, that tilt in the guidelines has vanished. The College Board’s rewritten 2015 teaching guidelines are almost a model of political fair-mindedness. This isn’t just an about-face. It is an important political event.
The earlier guidelines characterized the discovery of America as mostly the story of Europeans bringing pestilence, destructive plants and cultural obliteration to American Indians. The new guidelines put it this way: “Mutual misunderstandings between Europeans and Native Americans often defined the early years of interaction and trade as each group sought to make sense of the other. Over time, Europeans and Native Americans adopted some useful aspects of each other’s culture.”
The previous, neo-Marxist guidelines said, “Students should be able to explain how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history, with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities.” That has been removed. The revised guidelines have plenty about “identity” but nothing worth mounting a Super PAC to battle.
Also new: “The effort for American independence was energized by colonial leaders such as Benjamin Franklin, as well as by popular movements that included the political activism of laborers, artisans, and women.” The earlier version never suggested the existence of Franklin—or Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison or anyone resembling a Founding Father. Now they’re back. Even the Federalist Papers were fished out of the memory hole.
Most incredible of all, the private enterprise system is, as they say, reimagined as a force for good: “As the price of many goods decreased, workers’ real wages increased, providing new access to a variety of goods and services.” There’s an idea that has fallen out of favor the past six years.
The final sentence of my June 11 column on the previous guidelines, “Bye, Bye, American History,” said: “The College Board promises that what it produces next month will be ‘balanced.’ We await the event.”
The College Board delivered on its promise. The new guidelines, which convey an understanding of American history to thousands of high-school students, are about as balanced as one could hope for. The framework itself, on the College Board website inside the AP tab, is worth a look.
To Bernie-Sanders progressives, what happened was a sellout. For ThinkProgress.org, “College Board Caves to Conservative Pressure.”
What really happened was the resurrection of an American idea the left wants to extinguish—federalism. Some states began to push back. Legislative opposition to the guidelines formed in Georgia, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Nebraska, Tennessee, Colorado and Texas.
Stanley Kurtz, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has argued that the College Board was concerned that its lucrative nationwide testing franchise would be at risk if states began to replace it with their own courses. I think he’s right.
What remains, however, is that the College Board, after somehow thinking it could produce a politically tendentious document that would have established “identity politics” as the official narrative of U.S. history, ended up with a set of guidelines that deftly straddles the political center.
This is a significant event. It marks an important turn in the American culture wars that exploded at the Republican convention in 1992 with the religious right, a movement that faded but whose sense of political alienation has remained alive, whether in the original tea-party groups or today with voters adopting the improbable Donald Trump.
What these disaffected people have held in common is the sense that their animating beliefs in—if one may say so—God and country were not merely being opposed but were being rolled completely off the table by institutions—“Washington,” the courts, a College Board—over which they had no apparent control.
They were not wrong.
The original AP U.S. history guidelines were a case study in the left’s irrepressible impulse, here or elsewhere, to always go too far. The left always said it just wanted “to be heard.” They were, but it was never enough. The goal was to make the American center-right simply shut up. Now, with campus trigger-warnings and microagression manias, the left is telling liberals to shut up too. They rule, and you do. Ask the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Guess what? In a country of 319 million “diverse” people, that is really a hard political goal to lock down, no matter how many institutions are captured.
Is the country polarized? How could it not be? Is there a solution? Take a look at how the AP U.S. history mess was handled. Someone rewrote those guidelines into a reasonable political accommodation. It is not impossible.
Tom Cotton: Without releasing Iran side deal documents, Obama is in violation of the law he just sig
Rob told you earlier that the Obama Administration admits what everyone could plainly see about why the Iran nuclear deal wasn’t treated as a treaty. Because the Constitution requires treaties to be ratified by the Senate, and Obama and Kerry know there’s no chance of that happening with this turkey.
That’s obviously a blatant disregarding of the Constitution, but that’s hardly unusual for this administration. What is harder to understand is why a Republican Congress went ahead and passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which created a statutory if clearly unconstitutional process by which Obama can still get something like congressional approval even if all he’s doing is just barely sustaining the veto of an act of disapproval. There is already a process by which the president can get approval. It’s called treaty ratification, and it requires two-thirds of the Senate. For congressional Republicans to give Obama an alternative to that is one of the most mind-blowingly stupid things I can ever remember them doing. And that’s saying something.
But it gets worse. Senator Tom Cotton, writing in collaboration with Congressman Mike Pompeo, explains in today’s Wall Street Journal that Obama isn’t even meeting the low bar of legality set by this law. Because in submitting the agreement for approval (which, remember, is presumed unless Congress passed a veto-proof bill of disapproval), Obama is failing to meet a requirement clearly spelled out in the act to submit the details of all side agreements - including those between Iran and the UN.
Cotton and Pompeo make it clear there is no room for confusion or interpretation on this point. It’s right in the act:
During a recent trip to Vienna to meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the organization charged with verifying Iran’s compliance, we learned that certain elements of this deal are—and will remain—secret. According to the IAEA, those involved with the negotiations, including the Obama administration, agreed to allow Iran to forge the secret side deals with the IAEA on two issues.
The first governs the IAEA’s inspection of the Parchin military complex, the facility long suspected as the site of Iran’s long-range ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapons development. The second addresses what—if anything—Iran will be required to disclose about the past military dimensions of its nuclear program.
Yet the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act specifically says that Congress must receive all nuclear agreement documents, including any related to agreements “entered into or made between Iran and any other parties.” It expressly includes “side agreements.” This requirement is not strictly limited to agreements to which the U.S. is a signatory. This law passed in May, well before the nuclear negotiations ended. The Obama administration should have held firm in negotiations to obtain what was necessary for Congress to review the agreement. Iran, not the U.S., should have conceded on this point.
Weaponization lies at the heart of our dispute with Iran and is central to determining whether this deal is acceptable. Inspections of Parchin are necessary to ensure that Iran is adhering to its end of the agreement. Without knowing this baseline, inspectors cannot properly evaluate Iran’s compliance. It’s like beginning a diet without knowing your starting weight. That the administration would accept side agreements on these critical issues—and ask the U.S. Congress to do the same—is irresponsible.
It’s irresponsible in the extreme, but what’s new? That’s how the Obama White House always acts. What really matters now is what Congress will do. If Obama has not submitted all the information the act requires, then Congress cannot hold a vote and it should instead make clear that he is in violation of the law and there is no agreement with Iran.
If Mitch McConnell and John Boehner hold a vote on the agreement when Obama hasn’t submitted all the information the law requires, they are once again facilitating his lawlessness. This should be non-negotiable. It’s right in the law Obama signed. No compliance, no vote, no agreement with Iran. And if Obama wants to proceed regardless as if the agreement is in force, which he will, then he should be impeached and removed from office.
What kind of pathetic country are we if we keep putting up with this?
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