Who decides what's patriotic? Colorado students walk out over history plan

On Tuesday, hundreds of students in Jefferson County, Colorado, a political swing district near Denver, walked out of classes to demonstrate their unhappiness with the curriculum review of an AP history course proposed by the school board.

Brennan Linsley/AP
Students protest outside of Ralston Valley High School Tuesday in Arvada, Colo. The students are protesting a proposal by the Jefferson County School Board to emphasize patriotism and downplay civil unrest in the teaching of U.S. history.

What's taught in social studies courses is a regular source of controversy. Disagreement in a Colorado school district over whether the US history curriculum needs to be reviewed to ensure it doesn't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law" is at the root of students' and teachers' own demonstration of civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students in Jefferson County, a political swing district near Denver, walked out of classes to demonstrate their unhappiness with the curriculum review proposed by the school board. They carried signs with slogans such as "There is nothing more patriotic than protest" – a reference to the direction from school board members that the new Advanced Placement US history course, which has been widely criticized in conservative circles – be reviewed to ensure that the materials promote patriotism and "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

The student protest followed a teacher "sick-out" on Friday that shut down two high schools when a large number of teachers called in sick.

At this point, nothing has been decided in Jefferson County about the history curriculum. The board put off discussion of the curriculum review until October, and the district superintendent, Dan McMinimee, emphasized in a statement to the community that "no decisions have been made regarding the curriculum committee."

“I respect the right of our students to express their opinions in a peaceful manner," Mr. McMinimee added. "I do, however, prefer that our students stay in class."

But the controversy is indicative of a deeper political divide, both in Jefferson County – a swing district in a swing state – and, when it comes to curriculum issues, nationally.

In JeffCo, as the district is known, tension between the school board and teachers and some parents has been growing ever since a contentious election last year that gave the board a conservative majority. The curriculum clash is the latest in a series of disagreements about issues ranging from merit pay to charter schools.

The board's concern over the AP US history course, meanwhile, reflects many conservatives' complaints that the new course, which was designed to give teachers more discretion over what they teach and to emphasize critical thinking skills, no longer teaches American exceptionalism, or gives as much weight to traditional events, and puts some American actions – like Manifest Destiny or the dropping of the atomic bomb in World War II – in a negative context.

Last week, the Texas Board of Education approved a measure declaring that Texas's history curriculum, set by state board members, takes precedence over the AP US history course. The board still needs to take a final vote, but the measure would essentially require that Texas students learn the state curriculum when it comes to US history.

In JeffCo, things are likely to calm down until the board next takes up the issue, and when students have said they plan to take their concerns to the board.

“The frustration level is just so high right now among students and teachers,” Kayla Greco, a senior at Pomona High in Arvada, Colo., told Chalkbeat Colorado, a local education news source. “It’s not just the teachers who are upset about changes.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Who decides what's patriotic? Colorado students walk out over history plan
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today