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Resources approved for use in U-46 AP classes

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved an advanced placement (AP) proposal to purchase resources totaling $91,658 for two AP courses at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.
  The two courses include AP U.S. Government and Politics and AP Human Geography with Pearson’s “American Government: Roots and Reform” and “The Cultural Landscape: Introduction to Human Geography” the chosen textbooks for the respective courses.
  The board approved the proposal with a 5-1 vote, board member Jeanette Ward voting no citing one-sided lessons within the resources. Board member Traci Ellis was not in attendance.
  Within the “American Government: Roots and Reform” text, Ward said America’s founding documents (the Declaration of Independence as well as the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights) “are only included as appendices” and are not presented in full within any chapter, the Second Amendment is misrepresented, there are one-sided lessons on abortion and discrimination and sexuality is equated with race.
  “The tone of the text overall is not balanced and does not present opposing views of issues,” Ward said. “Rather, the resource seeks to indoctrinate students in one point of view.”
  Ward said “The Cultural Landscape: Introduction to Human Geography” text has removed anti-Israel bias from previous editions which she was “pleased to see,” but it does include other one-sided lessons.
  “It paints a rosy picture of China’s one-child policy and speaks of Chinese citizens receiving ‘free abortions’ instead of forced abortions by a tyrannical government,” said Ward who added: “It gives dubious statistics about the worldwide pay gap between men and women without exploring the reasons for that pay gap.”
  Board member Phil Costello asked if the administration would comment on those concerns and Robin Lenart, K-12 social studies coordinator, and Trisha Shrode, director of curriculum and instruction, said ultimately the textbooks are not the only resources used and taking a specific position on issues “are not an outcome” the district is looking for within the curriculum framework.
  Regarding the founding documents, Lenart said while they aren’t included in the textbook they are “featured prominently in the course, and students do study those documents in depth as part of the curriculum of the course.” She added: “We trust that our teachers understand that they are teaching students how to think, not what to think.”
  Shrode said the AP curriculum is developed and “submitted by the College Board,” not in U-46, and the district can only choose resources approved by the College Board.
  Costello, who ultimately voted for the proposal, said “I agree it’s more up to the teacher” and “the way they present it,” but he had concerns with how much focus is given on teaching critical thinking within the courses.
  “What I’m not hearing though is the impact of capitalism, the impact of our history as a solid baseline, not to argue for or against it but to present a critical thinking,” Costello said. “I would like to see more thought given on where are we seeing capitalism, where are we seeing what has made this country great kind of thing.”
  Board member Sue Kerr said the AP courses are developed by the College Board and Ward replied that the “AP has been in the news for bias several times.” Kerr said: “But it’s the AP.”
  Ward responded: “Yeah, but the taxpayers of this district are paying for this resource. If teachers are going to pull from different resources that’s fine, but we’re voting tonight on whether to pay for these textbooks.”
  Board member Melissa Owens said she appreciates “hearing the concept that what we’re looking at is the outcomes with the curriculum,” and in regards to the one-child policy in China “to some degree, context matters on this.”
  “I would fully agree that it was not a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of what the one-child policy has meant to China as a whole,” said Owens, but it was about “how governments can influence population shifts.”
  Supporters of the resources pulled from their own personal experience to support the proposal as did Ward for opposing it. Shrode and Kerr as well as Donna Smith, the board’s president, all said they’ve had children who have taken AP classes and teachers used multiple resources.
  Casey Pearce, the board’s student advisor and a senior at Bartlett High School, said “a lot of the AP curriculum is extremely cookie cutter in a way where you have to kind of follow the rules so you can follow the test,” and she said students sometimes disagree with the textbooks.
  Pearce said “we use the book a lot” and the rest of class period is used to discuss it, but “both sides were presented in the classroom because our students in the district sometimes don’t agree with what’s written in a book.”
  “I’m glad to hear that opposing views are being presented in the classroom, and that’s what I’m hoping to see,” Ward said. “In my own experience, with my daughter who’s now in middle school, I have to provide the opposing resource. It’s not provided, there’s one side provided.”



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