THURSDAY UPDATE: With the Jeffco Board of Education meeting tonight, the Jefferson County PTA has voted unanimously to oppose the conservative majority's proposed "Curriculum Review Committee." From their release today:
“My board voted unanimously to oppose the formation of this Curriculum Review Committee. Jeffco Schools employs professionals, educational experts, who should be making these decisions. Additionally, Jeffco Schools has a Curriculum and Text Book Review Committee which includes a variety of community participants. I have participated in the text book review process myself and find it to be thorough and adequate and I believe it would irresponsible of the school board to form a committee of citizens chosen solely by a board majority vote,” said Jeffco PTA President Michele Patterson.
President Patterson continued, “If the board moves forward with this committee, they will be wading into dangerous territory. Censorship is not an issue parents or our Jeffco community will take lightly.” [Pols emphasis]
The new conservative majority on the Jefferson County, Colorado Board of Education is barreling ahead with an ideological agenda that continues to provoke major controversy–both behind the scenes and incerasingly in public. Last week, the Jefferson County Education Association issued a vote of 'no confidence' in board chairman Ken Witt, citing among a long list of grievances recent decisions about teacher compensation by the board majority based on a discredited evaluation model.
The latest proposal from the conservative majority, though, could be considered downright chilling:
Board Committee for Curriculum Review.
The committee shall be seated by the Board. Each director may nominated up to three candidates for the committee and the entire board then will vote to select the nine (9) members of the committee. The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials. The committee shall regularly review texts and curriculum according to priorities that it establishes, however, at any time, the Board may add items to the list for review. The committee shall report all comments (majority and minority) to the board in writing on a weekly basis as items are reviewed. Board members may move for discussion or action on items reported when matters warrant public discussion or action. The committee’s initial projects will be a review of the AP US History curriculum and elementary health curriculum.
Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. [Pols emphasis] Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions.
A subset of the conservative backlash against the Common Core educational standards supported by the National Governor's Association and others is opposition to the "liberal slant" of new Advanced Placement high school history curricula, in use this year for the first time. It's a very old complaint on the right that public school social studies courses don't teach "American values" to students, which is then attributed to a host of social ills caused by those students failure to be educated in, as you read above, "positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." Educators have long rejected this as partisan political bloviation, but the updated AP courses this year have given conservatives a fresh opportunity to air time-honored grievances.
The biggest problem, of course, is that the new conservative board majority is not constrained by any sense of objective factuality. The will to "fix" the district's curriculum to conform to–or at least facilitate–an ideology has the majority power to override the will of education experts. And it looks like they intend to use that power.
We're not aware of that ever having had a good outcome…you know, in history.