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California university equates U.S. history with anthropology, sparks dispute
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Dispute in Sacramento parallels history disputes reaching to high school AP exam, as educators battle over what views of history should be taught. - photo by Eric Schulzke
A state university in California has decided that anthropology can be substituted for U.S. history, raising the ire of at least one history professor, who thinks something vital is lost in the exchange.

Writing in a Sacramento Bee op-ed article, Joseph Palmero, a history professor at Sacramento State University, argues that U.S. history is a vital component in developing a competent citizenry.

"For most Sacramento State students, this 15-week G.E. requirement will be the only American history class theyll take in their lives. Many of our students are the first in their families to attend college, so it cant be assumed theyve been exposed to U.S. history at home."

Palmero is not arguing that U.S. history should be airbrushed or gussied up. When he cites examples of what is lost by the switch, he focuses on iconic moments in American history that provide fodder for the left as well as the right.

"The new introductory 'history' course leaves out," Palmero writes, "among other things, the Progressive Era, World War I, womens suffrage, the Great Depression, FDR, the New Deal, World War II, McCarthyism, the Cold War, the Korean War, the nuclear arms race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the JFK assassination, Freedom Summer, the United Farm Workers Union, the Vietnam War, Stonewall, Watergate, Second Wave Feminism, the Iranian hostage crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, globalization, the 9/11 attacks, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

The Sacramento State move echoes ongoing battles over what should be taught in U.S. history courses, rather than whether they should be taught at all.

Ongoing disputes center on the new American History AP course offered in public high schools, which critics argue paints the American legacy in an unduly harsh light. The new AP course was launched last year.

Earlier this month, Politico noted that "conservative groups have challenged the course across the country in a variety of localities and states, including North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia and Colorado, where students in Jefferson County staged a walkout over what they saw as the local school boards efforts to censor their curriculum."

Last summer, Newsweek quoted Larry S. Krieger, a recently retired AP history teacher from New Jersey, who looked at the new AP course framework and was appalled.

"As I read through the document, I saw a consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters," Krieger said on a conference call reported by Newsweek.

Krieger used to start his AP classes with John Winthrop's "city on a hill" and would continue that theme through Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.

"Instead of striving to build a city on a hill, according to the framework our nation's Founders are portrayed as bigots who 'developed a belief in white superiority' that's a quote that was in turn derived from 'a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority' and that of course led to 'the creation of a rigid racial hierarchy.

Politico's report came as an Oklahoma lawmaker first proposed and then withdrew a bill that would have defunded the AP exam.