At least 700 high school students in Jefferson County Colorado walked out of class Wednesday morning to protest proposed changes to their schools’ history curriculum.
The suggested changes from their school board include an evaluation-based system for awarding teachers’ raises, and a curriculum committee that would push for the promotion of “positive aspects” of the United States and its history. The committee would ask educators to avoid any material that may encourage or condone “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
Ironically, this suggested change has spurred plenty of civil disorder. By midweek, students at nearly half of Jefferson County’s public high schools had walked out of their classes to protest. Many of the student protestors hold signs saying “Don’t make history a mystery.” Others are calling for “education without limitation.”
Jefferson County Superintendent Dan McMinimee has offered to meet with students about the school board’s proposal.
While the protests are a response to the proposal, the proposal itself is a response to new national framework for the teaching of Advanced Placement history. The new outline, overseen by the College Board, will focus on critical thinking and discussion, not rote memorization. According to the College Board, this approach to history education will provide a balanced view.
The Jefferson County school board disagrees, and wants to ensure history classes “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.”
Students are fine with that part of the proposal. It’s when the school board said they would discourage the teaching of anything that may inspire civil disobedience or disregard of the law that the students began the walk-outs.
For their part, the school district hasn’t tried to stop students from protesting, nor are they punishing any of the participants. Instead they are sending administrators to observe the students and ensure they stay safe.
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Photo by RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post