New ‘patriotic’ AP U.S. History curriculum would cause much more harm than good

American History Redux

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New ‘patriotic’ AP U.S. History curriculum would cause much more harm than good

Simon Gibson Penrose

Simon Gibson Penrose

Simon Gibson Penrose

By Joe Jolley, Ballard HS, Seattle

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There are some things that should never be forgotten.

Last month, newly elected members to the school board of Jefferson County, Colo., proposed a new curriculum review committee in order to create a more patriotic Advanced Placement United States History course.

The new board members believe the current curriculum focuses too much on race, gender, civil disorder, and “America-bashing,” and hope to restructure the content of the course to promote what they see as a more positive view of United States history.

This is a very clear attempt at censoring the uglier parts of U.S. history. Not only would this new “patriotic” course deprive students of a proper education, it would also be extremely damaging to the country it claims to be defending if implemented on any sort of large scale.”

This is a very clear attempt at censoring the uglier parts of U.S. history. Not only would this new “patriotic” course deprive students of a proper education, it would also be extremely damaging to the country it claims to be defending if implemented on any sort of large scale.

“It looks a lot more at minorities and people who have been left out of history,” AP U.S. History teacher Dina McCardle said of the current course. This is an improvement over past history course that the new board members in Jefferson County seem determined to do away with.

The idea that removing mention of civil disobedience from history textbooks would somehow benefit the country and students’ education is ridiculous. The notion is especially ironic when you consider that the United States’ very existence arose from civil disobedience. I can assure you that the Founding Fathers didn’t start the American Revolution because of their unflagging respect for the authority of King George.

The list of events that these new standards could sweep under the rug because of their “America-bashing” nature or undue focus on race, gender or unrest is endless. Presumably the Jefferson County school board would also like to have us forget that until 94 years ago all women in this country were completely disenfranchised, that for a good portion of the country’s history it was legal to own and keep captive other human beings, and that until 1954 racial segregation was completely legal.

Unfortunately, the small group of people that pushed this through the Jefferson County school board are not alone in their beliefs. The political group Americans for Prosperity-Colorado, which is affiliated with the Koch family foundations and in the past has supported the Tea Party movement, has spoken out in their defense.

“An aversion to making a few people uncomfortable cannot be an excuse to walk away from the need to reform,” Americans for Prosperity Colorado director Dustin Zvonek said in his op-ed for “The Colorado Observer” on the issue.

What Zvonek doesn’t discuss is that it is the discomfort of the new conservative school board members and their like-minded compatriots that is driving these white-washing, revisionist reforms forward in the first place.

The only glimmer of hope in this foreboding story of censorship and historical revision is the response of the students and teachers of Jefferson County. After the new review committee was announced, hundreds of students and teachers walked out of school in protest, and continued protesting in the weeks following.

Student protest hasn’t just been poetic, it has also been effective. As of Oct. 3, the school board has backed down on the more extreme demands they put forward. However, they do still intend for there to be a review committee.

The College Board, the creators of the AP U.S. History program, have also come out against the Jefferson County school board. According to “The Denver Post,” the College Board stated that if important parts of U.S. history are censored they will pull their AP designation from the class.

Erasing parts of U.S. history from our education, which this review board is blatantly trying to do, is the last thing someone who cares about this country should do. Few things could be more damaging than trying to white-wash and beautify the long and turbulent road the United States has traveled down since its creation.

If the many mistakes and tragedies the United States has gone through in its history are ignored and forgotten, we as a people will never learn from them. As the late civil rights leader and U.S. Senator Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. wisely said, “There is no future for a people who deny their past.”

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