By Miles Brown
Oct. 15, 2014
The situation in Jefferson County, Colo. has reached divisive con 4. Students have launched protests amid the school board’s decision to review the College Board’s Advanced Placement History curriculum after the College Board updated it this summer. Why? Because school board’s new conservative majority thinks it’s just not patriotic enough.
The supporters of the school board are certainly getting the word out there — regardless of how ridiculous they sound. Late last week, Dr. Benjamin Carson (who is potentially planning a bid for biggest fiasco of a presidential campaign in 2016) said that the changes to the curriculum would compel kids to join ISIS. You know how high schoolers are these days. They wouldn’t hesitate to leave the amenities of life in middle class United States to go halfway around the world to become the next Azzam the American — all based on something they heard in school. Sounds legit.
If people like Ben Carson are kicking up this big of a stink, it seems that the College Board would have to be doing something egregiously awful. So, I decided to take a look for myself. After reviewing said changes, this whole controversy seems manufactured — not that I’m surprised — and allowing a school board to reinvent the the harmless curriculum will only make our education system that much worse.
The new framework — which critics say minimize positive aspects of American history in favor of emphasizing our darkest moments — puts greater focus on women and minorities and forces students to ask deeper questions about how gender, religious and ethnic identities changed over time. It also asks students to talk about group identities and the changing cultural values of the United States.
Says the College Board:
In line with college and university U.S. history survey courses’ increased focus on early and recent American history and decreased emphasis on other areas the AP U.S. History course expands on the history of the Americas from 1491 to 1607 and from 1980 to the present. It also allows teachers flexibility across nine different periods of U.S. history to teach topics of their choice in depth.”
These proposed changes are fantastic and are crucial in developing the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in college. Not to horn toot, but I currently attend the University of Wisconsin, which has one of the best history programs in the world. I most definitely would not have done nearly as well if it were not for the AP U.S. History courses I took in high school. Hearing that they’ve improved it to give teachers more flexibility on what they can teach should be incredibly welcomed, as teacher engagement and passion is incredibly important pushing students to become more interested and engaged in history as a subject.
Instead of embracing the changes as progress in education, the Jefferson County School Board would prefer to “present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” and “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system.” The mastermind behind the proposed plan, Julie Williams also wrote that “materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder [or] social strife.”
I don’t know what they think history is, but it does not involve picking and choosing what side you want to portray. This country was founded on civil disorder and social strife. In fact, the most important things to happen in this country happened because people went against the social order.
Here’s a video better explaining their issue:
If you want further proof of the level of their delusion, take a look at Jefferson County Board member Pam Manzanec, who actually said that the fact that the U.S. ended slavery voluntarily proves American exceptionalism, and that this view should be taught in schools. Let’s not dwell on her obvious misunderstanding of the word “voluntary,” but instead pose a few more scenarios: Using the same logic, I guess Joseph Stalin should be applauded for not killing millions more of his own people. Sure, he only stopped killing people after he himself died. But I guess it proves Soviet execptionalism that they voluntarily chose not to kill more of them, right? Perfect. Add that to the list of things to teach our 15 year olds.
The school board also says that the review will serve to give parents more control of what their kids are taught in school. And while that sounds sensible, an over-reliance on parental control of education is a huge reason why our curricula has begun to backslide in the past few decades. If we want our kids to be taught in a proper educational system, then we should leave the educating to the educators — the people that have dedicated their lives to learning better ways to teach our children.