Colorado School Board Keeps "Patriotic" History Curriculum, At Least For Now

After weeks of mass student and teacher protests across the county, the Colorado Jefferson County School board tackled the U.S. history curriculum controversy in a tense, busy board meeting on Thursday. The issue at stake is what's been understood as a move to censor the AP history curriculum and promote a 1984-esque political agenda, a proposal that has understandably incensed residents. Though the board didn't quite pull the plan — they're keeping the original history proposal — they did at least expand their review committee to include students and teachers, which might make more difference than you'd think.

The angry protests started on Sep. 19, after the Board of Education suggested setting up a committee to review the AP history curriculum, to make sure that it would ”promote patriotic material, respect for authority, and the free-market system.” What the residents understood by that? Censorship. The result was a mass upheaval in the county, with hundreds of students and teachers marching in protests, often holding signs that read: "Keep your politics out of my education." Twice, classes were canceled across the county.

As John Ford, President of the Jefferson County Education Association told Democracy Now:

Over the last 10 months, we had a school board majority that was elected into office — they were a conservative group— that started to push a conservative agenda. And last week, two weeks ago, when this proposal came out to create a community — a committee to censor certain parts of our curriculum, I think that’s what hit the nerve. And it not only hit a nerve with the educators in Jefferson County, but it really hit a nerve with our students, our parents and community folks as a whole.
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What the review board was — and still is — actually planning to do to the AP history curriculum isn't quite clear, though. Yes, the proposed new curriculum would apparently promote “citizenship, patriotism ... respect for authority” and discourage “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law,” but this doesn't necessarily translate directly into censorship. In fact, CBS news suggests that the new approach is more about an interactive approach to U.S. history, focused on evidence examination instead of fact memorization (and would this be so bad, after all?).

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The issue was finally tackled in a heated board meeting Thursday, where hundreds of teachers, students and locals showed up to demand that their history course be freed from review. Still, in spite of the widespread fury, the conservative board fell short of pulling the plug on the proposal. Instead, the board agreed to expand the review committee to include students, parents and teachers — which, if nothing else, will hopefully give locals a clearer picture of what the changes will actually entail. Whether the new curriculum will ultimately go through, and whether it will be as scary as some fear, remains to be seen.

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