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Protests Over Anti-Protest Curriculum

September 26, 2014

I was disheartened to read the NYTimes report about the events that took place in Jefferson County, Colorado on Tuesday where a 3-2 conservative majority on the Board is calling for a re-write of the K-12 social studies curriculum. The three conservative members of the board proposed the board create “…a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” The wording of the mission for the curriculum review committee is revealing: it assumes that a student who exhibits “patriotism” would yield to authority, not question the adverse consequences of unfettered free enterprise, and would not be exposed to educational materials describing various anti-government, labor and civil rights movements. Which begs the question of how social studies teachers will present the American revolution against England, a revolution fought by many of the founding fathers so beloved by the conservatives. And evidently the committee wants the social studies review to include AP History! Here’s hoping that ETS isn’t getting IT’S funding from Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded group that helped underwrite the election of the three conservatives on the Jefferson County School board.

I found this report to be disheartening because I want to believe that informed voters will elect forward thinking and open minded board members who want to see students question the status quo in all subjects and witness a high functioning democratic institution taking action to improve their schools. I would hope that longstanding superintendents like Jefferson County’s Cindy Stevenson would be respected and heeded by newly elected board members. I would hope that when a superintendent resigns or retires that boards would conduct extensive searches for new superintendents and not appoint a district leader without public engagement.

The only good news I read: the first amendment has not been repealed in Colorado and democracy MAY be alive. The students decided to show the newly elected Board member that sometimes it is necessary to protest in order be heard and they seemingly organized and carried out a peaceful and relatively orderly demonstration. After getting feedback in the form of the student walkout, the board put off their discussion of the curriculum-review committee proposal, and Ken Witt, the board president,

…suggested that some of its proposed language about not promoting “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law” might be cut.”

A lot of those words were more specific and more pointed than they have to be,” Mr. Witt said. He said that the school board was responsible for making decisions about curriculum and that the review committee would give a wider spectrum of parents and community members the power to examine what was taught in schools. He said that some had made censorship allegations “to incite and upset the student population.”

I would hope that the “wider spectrum” promise is kept and that they will be able to work collaboratively— or at least civilly– to develop a social studies curriculum that aligns with the one ETS uses to develop its AP tests.

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