Hundreds of students walked out of at least five Jefferson County schools in suburban Denver yesterday to protest what they think is the school board’s attempt to whitewash history, with proposed revisions to the AP history course that encourage censorship and discourage civil disobedience. It’s poetic that the students are protesting these proposed changes with civil disobedience themselves.
From ABC 7 Denver:
About 200 students walked out of Pomona High School in Arvada at 8:30 a.m. gathering at Wadsworth Boulevard, 7NEWS Reporter Tyler Lopez tweeted.
“My daughter and her friends at 80th and Wadsworth. Fighting for education. Pomona High School,” Robin Reed Johnson posted on theDenver Channel’s Facebook page.
Around 9:40 a.m. about 300 students at Arvada West walked out, holding signs and chanting as they marched along the sidewalk and stood along the street.
The students are protesting a proposed curriculum review in Jefferson County that could revise AP U.S. History courses. The revisions would include promoting “positive” aspects of U.S. history and heritage, while avoiding teaching certain material — mostly that deals with civil disobedience. The kids are not having it. Here’s what some of them had to say about it:
“Our entire history, things that changed America for the better, were acts of civil disobedience,” said Debbie Velarde, a junior at Wheat Ridge High School which also had a smaller walk out of about 40 students. “The Declaration of Independence was an act of civil disobedience.”An idea is to censor U.S. history so they can’t talk about some of the negatives, or they don’t want to talk about civil disobedience, which is censorship,” said Arvada West junior Cuttitta. “And censorship’s communism, censorship’s national socialism, censorship is terrible.”
These kids are giving me hope for the future.
I have admittedly been confused about the changes to this AP History course and what it means for students. People seem to be protesting the fact that the course leaves out very crucial parts of American History — including omitting “discussion of the U. S. military (no battles, commanders, or heroes) and omits many other individuals, groups, and events that greatly shaped our nation’s history (for example, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Tuskegee Airmen, [and] the Holocaust.”
Clearly there is a need for that to be under review. The problem in Colorado though, seems to be that the board has taken the new directive of the course to teach “historical critical thinking” to implement their own ideas of what is and isn’t appropriate for students to learn. And their ideas are grossly un-American. Here’s an example from one of the Jeffco school board member’s proposals:
Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the
free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for
individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions.
What? No. NO. NO. NO. You cannot do this. This is absurd. This is why students are walking out in protest — and this is why we should all be totally supporting their efforts. Materials should promote citizenship and not encourage or condone civil disorder or social strife? How can you present “balanced and factual” treatment of anything when you are leading with these ridiculous directives?
The changes to the AP course are allowing for states to have their own curriculum revisions, and this is where things are getting sticky. We cannot allow school boards to randomly decide on what “version” of history they would like to teach. This is a mess.
The ACLU of Colorado issued a statement on the matter last night:
“State-funded school curriculum should promote academic integrity, not ideological agendas. A committee that polices educational materials for insufficient devotion to patriotism or a lack of respect for authority runs the real danger of substituting propaganda for education. It’s troublesome, especially during a week in which the ACLU and anti-censorship advocates across the country recognize Banned Books Week, that the curriculum review committee would be charged with identifying and referring so-called ‘objectionable materials’ to the school board. ‘Objectionable’ is a standard that lends itself to censorship by empowering a small few to judge content based on their own personal or religious beliefs. It’s ironic that an attempt to downplay examples of social change being accomplished through civil disobedience has spurred a community-wide crash course in just how important it is to be able to speak out and question authority in a just and democratic society.”