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Letters to the Editor: AP history teachers have an incredibly hard job. Don’t insult them

The original Emancipation Proclamation is displayed at the National Archives in Washington in 2005.
(Associated Press)

To the editor: I take issue with Noah Berlatsky’s claim that teachers are trying to strip the past of relevance.

I am a retired teacher who taught AP art history for more than 20 years and AP world history for six. These are not AP U.S. history, but there are similarities. The courses are generally Eurocentric, but they are evolving over time to be more inclusive.

Does Berlatsky think that we teachers are dull automatons who simply parrot textbooks, or that we have much personal choice regarding the approved textbooks for the courses? Does the author want his daughter to pass her AP courses and tests with high scores so she can get into the university of her choice? I assume so.

I would suggest that Berlatsky involve himself in the approval of textbooks at the state and district levels. Advanced Placement courses are very difficult for the students and tremendous work for teachers. I treasure my memories working as an AP teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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George Ljubenkov, San Pedro

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To the editor: Berlatsky rightly takes the history textbook “The American Pageant” to task but ignores the complicity of the AP juggernaut.

AP is all about test scores, both at the school-site level and for college admissions, as any AP teacher will attest. The textbook industry has no incentive to change until the contents of the AP tests change.

Alexa Smith Maxwell, Los Angeles

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To the editor: AP U.S. history is full of problems; so too is Berlatsky’s op-ed.

His criticism is impressionistic and narrow, based on his daughter’s experience and aimed at one textbook that is often used but not required. His criticism should be directed at AP’s online “course and exam description” that too often bows to right-wing political pressure.

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Worse, however, is Berlatsky’s utilitarian philosophy of historical relevance. He worries about keeping students “ignorant and docile.” But that is precisely what happens when teachers, “connecting then and now,” turn history into a footnote to “current political events.”

Luckily, my recent AP teacher taught us the complexities of the past to empower his students to make those connections for themselves.

Peter Thomas, Irvine

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To the editor: I loved the juxtaposition on the May 3 print Opinion pages. A great op-ed article on outdated textbooks was facing letters on the uproar over ethnic studies in high school.

It looks like the uproar folks aren’t reading the books being used in high school history classes. I’m really thankful that if these students go to college, they’ll be exposed to more diverse views.

Tasneem Watts, Fullerton


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