The latest version of a top-selling study guide for the Advanced Placement European History exam explains the French Revolution with a chart which identifies Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as a fascist and pairs him with the Ku Klux Klan.
“Barron’s AP European History” (7th edition) makes the claim, intended for consumption by American high school students, on page 168. The chart attempts to compare modern American political affiliations with the various factions involved in the French Revolution.
The chart moves politically from left to right.
The far right of the chart is labeled “fascist.” The authors demonstrate modern-day “fascists” by pairing “Clarence Thomas and the KKK” in the same box.
Barron’s typifies the far right during the French Revolution with “wealthy people who fled France.”
The far left of the same chart is labeled “Communist.” For the French Revolution, “poor city dwellers” represent the far left. For today’s politics, the authors choose “anarchists.”
The chart as a whole is convoluted yet crudely, embarrassingly simplified.
The definitions the authors use for the middle parts of their political spectrum (“leftist,” “liberal,” “moderate,” “conservative” and “right wing”) are dubious.
For example, they describe “conservative” as “those against change/most Republicans.” They describe “liberal” as “those in favor or gradual change…most Democrats.”
Merriam-Webster, creator of Amazon’s best-selling dictionary, defines “conservatism” almost exactly as “Barron’s AP European History” chooses to define “liberal.”
According to Merriam-Webster, “conservatism” in politics means a desire “to preserve what is established,” “stressing established institutions” and “preferring gradual development to abrupt change.”
Political “liberalism,” according to Merriam-Webster, means a “belief in the value of social and political change in order to achieve progress” and places government as the “crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities.”
Fascism, according to Merriam-Webster, is a political philosophy “that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader.”
Justice Thomas, a member of the Supreme Court since 1991 and only the high court’s second-ever black justice, is generally viewed as an originalist in terms of his judicial philosophy. In a nutshell, originalism means that the proper way to interpret any part of the Constitution is to look to the intent of the people who wrote or amended its text. Only a formal amendment process — not judicial fiat — can change the meaning of the Constitution.
The Ku Klux Klan is a notorious hate group which deploys vile rhetoric and the occasional, sparsely-attended protest against various minority groups, most notably black people and Jewish people. (RELATED: Ku Klux Klan Hit Hard By Government Shutdown)
Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. flaunts itself as “Students’ #1 Choice” and “The Leader in Test Preparation.” It puffs the AP European History study guide as “the only book you will need to get the score you want.”
The private, Hauppauge, N.Y.-based company specializes in standardized test preparation but boasts more than 2,000 titles in a range of categories overall. There’s “Barron’s SAT,” for example, as well as “Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds” and “Drawing and Painting the Undead.”
“Barron’s AP European History” retails for $29.99. The authors are Seth A. Roberts and James M. Eder.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Roberts, the top-named author, is a taxpayer-funded high school social studies teacher at Linganore High School in Frederick, Md. (about an hour from Washington, D.C.).
“[M]y entire career has been about reaching people and helping them see the way that they can become the person who they want to become,” Roberts writes. “I believe that teaching students truly motivates the world.”
At Amazon, 15 reviewers give “Barron’s AP European History” three-and-a-half stars.
Happy customers say they are “thrilled” with the book. “I would recomend [sic] it to anyone who’s taking AP Euro,” declares a satisfied reader.
Disappointed reviewers say the Barron’s book “did not reflect the exam AT ALL.” It’s “too long, too squished together” and “too hard to read.”
AP exams are a product of the Educational Testing Service, a standardized test factory wallowing in wealth. A newly-revised AP U.S. History test has come under scrutiny in recent months for a lack of balance, a lack of rigor and a focus on identity groups in conflict. (RELATED: Why Are Conservatives So Bloody Mad About AP History?)