UPDATE #1: Good news–the plan to ‘review’ AP History has been scrapped.
*UPDATE #2 : The controversies in JeffCo have still been brewing since NCAC’s intervention. The district decided to establish a committee comprised of two board-appointed members, along with students, teachers, and curriculum experts selected by the District. The district hopes that that the issue regarding the curriculum will be resolved by spring 2015.
The National Coalition Against Censorship is leading a group of free speech and education organizations opposed to efforts by the Jefferson County (Colorado) School Board to oversee and micromanage the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. History.
School board members have proposed a new “board committee for curriculum review” whose mission would be to “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.” One proposal states that “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law [but] should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.” Another proposes that committee identify materials that “may reasonably be deemed” to be “objectionable.” Students and teachers at the school have vigorously protested the planned changes to the curriculum.
In a letter dated October 1, 2014, on behalf of a coalition of concerned organizations, NCAC said that the proposals are “deeply problematic.” The term objectionable, for instance, is “inherently vague and subjective and would predictably result in complaints based on personal, political, moral, or religious grounds.” In addition, “terms like citizenship and patriotism are similarly subject to multiple interpretations, as evidenced, for example, by the public debate about whether civil disobedience can be an act of patriotism.”
The letter notes that “it would be nearly impossible to teach US history without reference to ‘civil disorder,’ which is appropriately discussed in connection with the American revolution, the labor movement, civil rights and gay rights activism, US entry into World War I, voting rights protests, and public demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, abortion rights, government surveillance, and countless other significant events in US history.”
The letter concludes that “decisions about instructional materials should be based on sound educational grounds, not because some people do or do not agree with the message, ideas, or content of a particular book or lesson,” and cites support for the current approach to teaching Advanced Placement U.S. history from eminent historians and educators. The letter asks the Jefferson County School Board to recognize the educational value of the curriculum already in place and to adopt policies that focus on “educating students to be informed, knowledgeable, thoughtful, and engaged participants in their community.”
For more information:
Read the press release and a Letter from the American Historical Association