Debate over AP US History Course in Jefferson County, CO Continues

In Golden, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, parents, students, and teachers are still demonstrating against the conservative majority on the school board who will not relent on changing their plans to review Advanced Placement US history. The board majority says that content is anti-American, according to Colleen Slevin of the Associated Press.

Last week, the Jefferson County (Jeffco) Board of Education voted to begin the review of the curriculum in general, and AP US history (APUSH), specifically. The Republican National Committee criticized the course and the Texas State Board of Education has told teachers not to teach according to the course’s outline.

This is the first time this newly designed course will be taught, and it gives more attention to the history of North America and its indigenous people before colonization and their struggles with the Europeans. Opponents say it downplays the success of the settlers and their establishment of a new nation.

The College Board says the course is not supposed to be exhaustive, and teachers are welcome to add material required by their states.  The College Board stated that it was responding to requests from teachers for less obvious examples of people and events to discuss with students which centered around certain basic themes.

Veteran history teacher Larry Krieger, who teaches in Montgomery, New Jersey, says the course has a global, revisionist view.

“Native Americans were defeated, wrongs were done, African-Americans were enslaved. However, at the same time this was going on, democratic institutions were being established, there was religious toleration and a new society was being created,” he said.

A letter from eight national and local organizations was sent to the Jeffco School Board and expressed opposition to the review.

“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,” the letter says.

The groups included the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. Jesse Paul of The Denver Post reports that both groups found some parts of the committee review “deeply problematic“. Other organizations signing the letter included the National Council of Teachers of English, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

“We strongly urge you to adopt policies and procedures that focus, not on molding patriots or citizens in a particular image, but on educating students to be informed, knowledgeable, thoughtful and engaged participants in their communities,” the letter said.

The College Board says the AP course was designed  to give students the skills to carefully compare and contrast the ideas of leading historians, to debate and discuss historical events and issues, and to write analytical and objective essays, says Josh Eidelson writing for Bloomberg Businessweek.  This week, however, conservative neurosurgeon Ben Carson said:

“…most people, when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS,” the Islamic State terrorist group.

According to Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart, the College Board has come out in support of student protesters in Jefferson County and has told the school district that if the board proceeds with a review of the AP US history framework there is a possibility that the district’s AP designation will be dropped.