AP U.S. History

This post isn’t really international in nature, but I think it’s still important to write about. Recently, the Oklahoma House Committee on Education approved a bill that would cut all government funding for AP United States History courses, essentially removing AP U.S. History from public high schools in Oklahoma. Supporters of this bill say that AP U.S. History is “anti-American” and emphasizes the negative aspects of American history, rather than painting American historical figures in a positive light. The bill’s main supporter, state representative Dan Fischer, said in a committee hearing that the AP US History curriculum “trades an emphasis on America’s founding principles of Constitutional government in favor of robust analyses of gender and racial oppression and class ethnicity and the lives of marginalized people, where the emphasis on instruction is of America as a nation of oppressors and exploiters,” according to a CNN report. The bill also proposed a curriculum for a replacement U.S. History course, which emphasized the documents important in laying out the ideal values of American democracy. AP U.S. History has sparked controversy in other parts of the country as well. In my home state of Colorado, student and teacher protests were sparked when the Jefferson County school board mentioned plans to change it’s district’s AP U.S. History classes to be more favorable to the U.S..

The AP U.S. History controversy brings up a lot of issues regarding education. I think we would all agree that “education” as an abstract idea is a good thing. We’re always talking about how education can pull somebody out of poverty, or how education can promote peace. But we have to think about what exactly education is. What exactly is it that we are being educated about? Historically, governments have used education as a tool to advance their agendas and beliefs. For example, the other day in one of my classes, we were looking at a math test from a school in Nazi Germany. The word problems on the test were pretty straightforward – simple multiplication and division – yet they still advanced a political agenda. The first question asked students to calculate how much money was used to care for mentally and physically disabled people in government institutions. The next question asked them to find how many houses could be built with this money. Though the questions were simple mathematically, they were still subtly telling students that money spent caring for those unable to support themselves could be spent for the more useful purpose of building houses, thus making students more likely to accept discrimination against, or even elimination of, people in government funded institutions.

The influence of an AP U.S. History course is even less subtle than this. What we learn in a history course forms our belief of what actually happened in the past, which in term influences what we will do in the future. Ask anyone why learning history is important, and the go-to answer is always “so that we can learn from our mistakes”. The AP U.S. History curriculum is being criticized for it’s emphasis on the United States’ mistakes, but isn’t that the point? Aren’t we supposed to learn about our mistakes so that we don’t make the same ones again? Yes, I agree that it’s important to learn about the positives as well, about the democratic ideals that made this country distinct, but those ideals aren’t the only aspect of our collective past. Maybe our history isn’t quite as pretty as we want it to be

Chinese New Year (春节)

Last Thursday (February 19th) was the Lunar New Year. At OU, the holiday was accompanied by a variety of fun events hosted by a combination of the Chinese Department, Chinese Language Club, Chinese Society of Students and Scholars, and Confucius Institute. There was free Chinese food on the South Oval, food, games, and the CCTV Chinese New Year show in Wagner hall on Thursday night, and a Chinese New Year Gala complete with food and performances by the CSSS on Sunday. There were also events and cheap authentic Chinese food at local Chinese restaurants. Of all these events, I unfortunately only made it to the free food on the South Oval (by chance) and the event on Thursday night.

Even though I only made it to one of the many fun events I could have gone to, the Chinese New Year celebration was a lot of fun. We ate a variety of Chinese food, including delicious rice rolls made by my Chinese teacher and, of course, 饺子 (dumplings). After we ate, there were several Chinese cultural activities, including calligraphy, Ma jiang, and contests to see who was the best at using chopsticks. I finally learned how to play Ma jiang, which might be a valuable skill to have when I study abroad in China. One of the people I was playing with had been to China, and said that Ma jiang is, in fact, quite popular in Beijing. Since I spent so much time learning how to play Ma jiang, I didn’t really get a chance to do any calligraphy or chopstick competitions before the event ended, but I still had a great time.

Throughout the entire event, the Chinese New Year show, which is broadcast on CCTV in China, was playing. The show is basically a collection of songs, dances, acrobatics, and sketches that lasts for about five hours, so we didn’t get to see the whole thing. In China, the show is watched by just about everyone who has a TV and includes most of China’s biggest celebrities. As my Chinese teacher said, a Chinese person will know they’re truly a celebrity if they are on the New Year show. What I saw of this year’s show included a confusing sketch, that would have probably been funny if I were better at understanding Chinese, and a mash up of several of this year’s biggest Chinese songs. I didn’t really recognize any of them except for a few lines of 小苹果 (if you’re into confusing music video experiences, this song is for you), but several of the people who had been to China and were more aware of popular Chinese songs were able to sing along. Overall, it was a lot of fun, and next year I’ll definitely try to make it to more Chinese New Year Events.

OU Cousins Bingo Night

I’ve already fallen a bit behind on my goal of posting something every week, but at least I’m doing a bit better than last semester! Anyway, three weeks into Spring Semester, I finally got to see my OU cousin again! We texted each other (in Chinese) occasionally over winter break and during the first few weeks of school, but it was a lot of fun to finally see her again. We went to an event hosted by the OU Cousins program, OU Cousins Bingo Night. The main draw was probably the free pizza and pop, but bingo was a lot of fun too. The game started off with small prizes like T-shirts and posters, but eventually some lucky person won a TV, and a girl at our table won OKC Thunder tickets. My cousin and I didn’t win anything, but it was still a night filled with fun, games, friends, and free pizza.

While I’m on the subject of my OU cousin, last semester in my Global Engagement class, our final project was to create a digital story about some international experience. I created a story about my OU Cousin that I’m pretty proud of, but I guess I never posted it on here. So, without further ado: