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September 18, 2014 04:00 PM UTC

Right Wing Jeffco School Board Seeks "Review" Of History

  • by: Colorado Pols

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.


74 thoughts on “Right Wing Jeffco School Board Seeks “Review” Of History

  1. I remember when I was about high school age and I was shocked to hear that text books in Japan made the claim that they were not responsible for Pearl Harbor.

    History, and academics of all subjects, should always be about truth, not presenting the Good Ole USA in the most positive light. How will we ever learn from our mistakes if we can't even admit to them. And as for science, dumbing down our kids in favor of creationism does not lead to innovation in science, engineering, and our economy.

    WTF JeffCo! Is this what you want for your kids, really?

    1. I don't think so, but t could be fun to watch this roll out.  I'm sure a lot of JeffCo parents and students will not be happy if this goes like we think it will.  I'm putting popcorn on the grocery list.  So I say to the school board majority, "Hop to it guys, time is being wasted.  And institute some old testament focused, morning school prayer while you're at it."  

      What is that acrid odor in the air, the smell of burning books, burning liberals?

  2. Geez, Pols, your highlighter started a sentence too late.  Theories should be distinguished from fact.  Evolution; climate change; if Ready is to be believed, Newtown.

    1. Evolution as Fact and Theory

      by Stephen Jay Gould

      Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.


    2. Most people do not understand that theories are the paradigms that science is constantly testing and working to improve. Facts make theories but theories give facts context.

  3. Our US history lessons will promote respect for authority, not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Now please turn to chapter 3, The Boston Tea Party. 

    1. Yeah, and Alabama's Gov. George Wallace and Police Commissioner Bull Connor were authority figures that should have been respected for their honorable orders for those kids to stay away from white schools, lunch counters or when they tell you to "shut up and know your place!"

    2. Amen.  This is the whole point.  And, frankly, American citizens, and especially Westerners and Coloradoans and Jeffco residents don't take kindly to petty dictators telling us what we can and can't do. This is a big problem for them.

  4. I believe that schools have an obligation to install citizenship and patriotism in our students. There is nothing unreasonable about a review to ensure that happens. I believe there are educators who have a very negative view of American history, and that should be balanced by others who don't have that view.

    This should not be controversial, and for Pols to make an issue of it makes me suspicious of their motives.

      1. I don't want my kids' books regarding American history to be either "positive" or "negative." I want them simply to be truthful, and accurate. Andi I'll handle the instilling of patriotism, civic-mindedness and good citizenship in them myself, thank you.

        1. And if the facts don't INSTALL citizenship and patriotism in our students, then lets just scrub out the facts !

          Moddy has no conception of the difference between indoctrination and education, which is indeed very sad.  He, being the obvious victim of poor education, sings its praises.  Our ignorant patriot blissfully marches on.

        2. Moddy, you're nothing but a cowardly fascist. 

          I love my country. Sometimes, more than usual; sometimes, much less. But I've never needed lies, distortion, and propaganda to make myself feel better. 


        3. DP, I recommend you get you hands on some books like Lies My Teacher Told Me, I love Paul Revere Whether He Rode or Not, Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of American History, if this is how they're going to skew their classes.

      2. Strongly disagree. History and social studies courses should not be for the purpose of propaganda but to educate. Historic events should be fully explored as objectively as possible. Students should learn about our system of government, how it works at federal state and local levels, what their rights and responsibilities as citizens are. They should not be told what to think about historic events but encouraged to look at all the available facst in the context of the times in which the events occurred and make their own judgements. 

        Education with the purpose of instilling blind obedience by way of promoting patriotism by preventing students from learning anything negative about their government's role in national or world events is the hall mark of totalitarian, repressive regimes. An honest look at history should give our students plenty to feel patriotic about without the need to cover up those things that didn't constitute our most shining moments. An honest education can only reveal a history that compares pretty damn favorably with the history of other countries. This stuff is messy for every country, including ours. 

        The more sophisticated, less blindly jingoistic citizens we turn out  the better off we are and the better off the world is since we are a superpower. It would be best for us and for the whole world for the US to have a citizenry capable of understanding complexity.

        I do think the left sometimes goes overboard, painting others as more angelic and the US as more evil by comparison than is the case. We should avoid giving the Disney version of our side or anyone else's side of history's story's. 

        1. and yet, I have never yet seen a history text that accurately portrays Samuel Adams and his role as a propagandist and agitator. Few Americans, unless they did take a college history course, know the truth about the Boston Tea Party

            1. Remember when the office of the Presidency and its occupant were treated with respect by all, regardless of party? When a presidential visit to any town, even one in which a majority had voted against the current President of the day, was considered an honor and a great civic occasion? When petty politics really did stop at the water's edge and we were all pleased to see our President, whether we had voted for him or not, being treated with respect in foreign countries by their heads of state because he was, after all, our President? 

              That's certainly something today's students would have to learn about as history because they've never seen it and probably would find it hard to imagine. If modster finds unseemly behavior so objectionable, he might have appreciated the far more seemly behavior toward our Presidents of those times.

          1. When I was in school, back in ancient times, our texts made it sound as if there were hardly any Indians (the term Native Americans  didn't exist) left so the basic message was, yeah, there were some unfortunate events with the whole manifest destiny thing but it was mainly John Wayne White Hat style terrific and glorious (we weren't near as mean as those cruel Spaniards in Mexico, Central and South America. We're good guys) and it's water under the bridge now anyway because there are only a handful of full blooded Indians left. Not to worry. 

            So what we saw or never saw in text books back in the day isn't exactly the gold standard either.

          2. Most people today don't know the real story of the Little Bighorn. Such as Custer being a light colonel, not a general; that he foolhardedly split his regiment and led them into a confrontation where he was vastly outnumbered; and the likelihood that he would have been courtmartialed had he survived. I grew up in Montana, where most of us learned the straight story, and he pains me to this day to see writers who know better refer to Custer as a general at the battle.

            To be precise, Custer was a brevet brigadier general in the latter stages of the Civil War, but reverted to his permanent rank of light colonel when the war ended. Lacking the skills or knowledge to do real work, Custer hid out in the Army and went West to fight Indians. As the bumper stickers you still see occasional around Montana say, Custer had it coming.


    1. Asshat.  You know very well that's not what we're talking about.  And anyway, they don't mean it with respect to the current President of the US since they have no respect for him.  Trust me, you're full of shit, as usual.

  5. This pisses me off to no end. You don't teach kids HOW TO be patriotic, you teach them ABOUT patriotism.

    My daughter is in 5th grade in a Jeffco school (5th grade is a big year for these subjects) and scares the shit out of me that Julie Williams wants to be in charge of how American history and elementary health is taught.

  6. AP History is a course taught nationally, and is overseen by the college board. The curriculum cannot be changed and it still be considered the same college course. So essentially, either they do offer it, or they don't, or students take it and waste their time and money. Since it's an optional course that students opt in for (and includes content they otherwise will have to "deal with" in college anyway), it's a silly thing for the board to focus on. And it will draw NEGATIVE attention to Jeffco by universities. I imagine AP science courses are next, which I would love to see the look on fellow science professors faces when they learn that either Jeffco no longer offers AP science, or that AP science in Jeffco is NOT college board aligned. I already know from working at a university admissions office in the past that some districts and schools in the nation stuck out as "red flags" to professors in relation to college acceptance, for reasons like this. This content WILL be on national exams. What are they hoping to accomplish?

    1. And, IB, oh dear, I think the "majority trio" just slipped into the deep end without their water wings.  So sad.  Someone should go flirt wth the lifeguard.  

  7. When I went to Junior High School (yes, I'm dating myself), we learned about how the brave white pioneers overcame the dreaded Indian menace. We learned about how even though slavery was a Bad Thing, most of the South was filled with lovely debutante balls and happy darkies.

    We never learned about the Mexican-American war or the big land grab of what is now the American Southwest at all. We never learned any modern American history – post World War II, that is.

    When I was in high school, I was taught African-American history by the  great Regis Groff, who was an excellent  high school teacher before he ever ran for the legislature.

    That definitely filled in some of the gaps in my education.

    And guess what? Most Colorado students are lucky to get far enough into the modern era to learn about the Vietnam War. Everyone's trying to "cover" the curriculum, and testing takes a lot of time, and so most of the lessons of the last fifty years are never explored.


    It grieves me no end to think that Jeffco students will be effectively bounced back forty years in history education.


  8. The conservative majority may be about to overplay their hand.  So far they have hired their own attorney, installed their own DougCo transplant superintendent, and messed with the teachers' compensation structure. All of these things may have gotten the average JeffCo resident's attention, but maybe not. Most taxpayers didn't notice or don't care, or figured the teachers can fight their own battles. This move will take it to another level.  In addition to sounding like right wing indoctrination, anti-science and anti-fact, it is going to mess with kids' futures.  The college board, which dictates the AP History curriculum, is not going to change it because Williams or her toadies say to.  If JeffCo rejects it, the class will not be offered, and a whole lot of top performing students are going to miss out on a class that is not only very valuable to them, but is strongly desired by the selective colleges they hope to attend.  Parents are going to go ape.  And I mean the noisy ones.  The ones that have shepherded their kids into gifted and talented programs. The ones that vote. You can screw poor out of full day kindergarten. You can funnel more money to charter schools.  You can probably get away with doublecrossing the teachers.  But once you try to pass off the RNC party platform as "education policy," you may be in trouble.  

  9. Teach "respect for individual rights….."   I like the sound of that, as in respect the right to use contraception; respect the right for a woman of child bearing age to govern her own body and seek out an abortion if needed. Gee, I can go on. 

    Maybe this will fall into that wide nebula called "unintended consequences." 

  10. "Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." So the whole civil rights era is out. Reminds me of growing up in the rural South. I never learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., until college.

      1. For ruthella, that "civil war" Miss Jane is talking about is what you would have known as the War for Southern Independence or the War of Northern Aggression.

          1. Years ago when we were in Biloxi touring Jefferson Davis' last home and adjoining confederate cemetery, we noticed that it was always referred to as the War of Northern Aggression. Also that the authentic dresses on the mannequins had waists so tiny it's no wonder southern belles in novels always seem to be fainting and God knows what it did to their internal organs. If you got the least bit  excited about anything you probably couldn't breath laced into those corsets. I'm talking about waist sizes that make Barbie dolls proportions look normal.

      1. South Carolina between Charleston and Columbia. My hometown, the county seat, has three stoplights. It only needs one because of trucker traffic. Also lived in NC in a slightly bigger small town sort of near Charlotte. Never lived in a city until I moved to Denver in 2001, though I'd lived in relatively cosmopolitan college towns after high school.

  11. When I was in school I was taught that FDR was a brilliant man who saved us from the depression and that unions were wonderful things.

    Politization of history can go more than one way

    1. Well Roosevelt's policies were making good progress until he went along with conservatives for the usual political reasons and partially curtailed successful policies to meet the conservative demands for more austerity. Unions created the most expansive, prosperous, upwardly mobile middle class the world has ever known and their disintegration parallels the disintegration of middle class prosperity. Teddy, the Republican Roosevelt, was a big supporter of labor and so was Eisenhower and for good reason.  Prosperity comes from labor, from masses with money to spend.  

      Your go to historic great R every time you want to compare Rs and Ds as if nothing has changed, Abe Lincoln, also was a staunch defender of Labor as the creator of wealth. I think that about covers the R Presidents, other than Reagan, you folks most like to reference and would be least likely to give the time of day in the 21st century.  And Reagan and his VP left us with an economy that  caused the election of a Dem with the catch phrase "It's the economy, stupid" . That's how successful his voodoo economics were. Followed by a Dem wiping out the deficit. Followed by George Jr bringing it back and exploding it. Fancy that.

      True the biggest stimulus during FDR's time came from our first being a supplier for and then entering WWII. That's a direct result of all the government spending in our manufacturing economy, employing armies of workers at high wages. My mom didn't go to college because when she graduated high school the jobs available to working class girls like her were just too good to pass up. She worked in the war effort and saved enough so that when the boys came home and she got married they had a good start in life. Compare to what awaited the boys coming home from Bush's war 

      Bush's war did the opposite since it was the first time we (or anyone else) ever went to war and lowered taxes instead of raising them and during which American manufacturing no longer was producing much for the war or employing many people so instead of being a huge economic stimulus it was a huge economic black hole for everyone but a few robber baron war profiteers sucking the blood out of tax payers, charging the military ridiculous prices for work shoddy enough to kill people and losing hearts and minds right and left by their brutal treatment of the people we needed on our side. 

      Put that in your damn history book. Oh, and hi there. Long time no see, Elliot. Did you miss us?wink


      1. Well, no.  I get that argument about the the first highlighted sentence.  The third one, though, does not purport that "truth" be taught.  It specifically denies the teaching of "truths" which may be "detrimental"

        Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.

      2. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.

        So, is teaching any part of the American Revolution right out then? What about the labor movements during the Gilded Age? The Civil War? the Indian Wars? Women's Suffrage? 

        There are many points of view on history, especially our history. American History is messy and the messy parts shouldn't be glossed over in the name of "patriotism" and "respect for authority." To do so is not only a disservice to students, but a disservice to history itself. 


        Person with a B.A. in History. 

    1. Simple: I had a good education which consisted of me teaching myself a whole bunch of stuff after being given the tools to do so.

      I would note something here: you all seem to believe that your point of view -on normative issues which have no right or wrong answer- is what should be taught in schools.  Is it any wonder then that those who disagree with your normative views want to have kids taught what they believe?  And this isn't even getting into the debate on normative issues where there may be right answers to questions but where there is not agreement at this time as to what those answers are

        1. Is it any wonder then that those who disagree with your normative views want to have kids taught what they believe?

          No…and they are free to do so. But, as in the case of creationism, a complete and mythological refutation of science and observable fact is not what I consider to be a building block of a good education.

          Go to your average Christian school and tell me why I should approve of a teacher telling a child that humans co-existed with dinosaurs and that the eons old work of wind and water I see everytime i hike the Colorado National Monument is a trick, put there by God to fool me…

          You and I are free to fill our childrens heads with any nonsense we like. Schools should stick to the real world…not the world of faith.

  12. From the Wikipedia entry:

    The Ministry of Truth is involved with news media, entertainment, the fine arts and educational books. Its purpose is to rewrite history to change the facts to fit Party doctrine for propaganda effect. For example, if Big Brother makes a prediction that turns out to be wrong, the employees of the Ministry of Truth go back and rewrite the prediction so that any prediction Big Brother previously made is accurate. This is the "how" of the Ministry of Truth's existence. Within the novel, Orwell elaborates that the deeper reason for its existence is to maintain the illusion that the Party is absolute. It cannot ever seem to change its mind (if, for instance, they perform one of their constant changes regarding enemies during war) or make a mistake (firing an official or making a grossly misjudged supply prediction), for that would imply weakness and to maintain power the Party must seem eternally right and strong.

  13. "Everyman His Own Historian" by Carl Becker 1935  (noted historian of the early to mid 20th century)

    ~~What then of us, historians by profession? What have we to do with Mr. Everyman, or he with us? More, I venture to believe, than we are apt to think. For each of us is Mr. Everyman too. Each of us is subject to the limitations of time and place; and for each of us, no less than for the Browns and Smiths of the world, the pattern of remembered things said and done will be woven, safeguard the process how we may, at the behest of circumstance and purpose.

    True it is that although each of us is Mr. Everyman, each is something more than his own historian. Mr. Everyman, being but an informal historian, is under no bond to remember what is irrelevant to his personal affairs. But we are historians by profession. Our profession, less intimately bound up with the practical activities, is to be directly concerned with the ideal series of events that is only of casual or occasional import to others; it is our business in life to be ever preoccupied with that far-flung pattern of artificial memories that encloses and completes the central pattern of individual experience. We are Mr. Everybody’s historian as well as our own, since our histories serve the double purpose, which written histories have always served, of keeping alive the recollection of memorable men and events. We are thus of that ancient and honorable company of wise men of the tribe, of bards and story-tellers and minstrels, of soothsayers and priests, to whom in successive ages has been entrusted the keeping of the useful myths. Let not the harmless, necessary word “myth” put us out of countenance. In the history of history a myth is a once valid but now discarded version of the human story, as our now valid versions will in due course be relegated to the category of discarded myths. With our predecessors, the bards and story-tellers and priests, we have therefore this in common: that it is our function, as it was theirs, not to create, but to preserve and perpetuate the social tradition; to harmonize, as well as ignorance and prejudice permit, the actual and the remembered series of events; to enlarge and enrich the specious present common to us all to the end that “society” (the tribe, the nation, or all mankind) may judge of what it is doing in the light of what it has done and what it hopes to do."

    Also, Jonathan Haid',s book "The Righteous Mind – Why Good people Are Divided by Politics and Religion" gives a good perspective in how people view the same things and draw far differing conclusions.  He has a 10 minute segment on TEDtalks and an hour interview with Bill Moyers archived at PBS on Moyers' program.   Both are helpful without having to actually read the book.  He makes excellent points that can help us understand one another better, why we think the ways we do, and do and say seemingly incomprehensible things. It helped me better understand and like Elliot and dislike Cory Gardner.  


      1. Really weird. It' there now. I swear it wasn't before and just now when I clicked on my last comment I got sent to a weird place. Clicked again and got sent to this diary but not directly to my comment. Now everything seems normal again. Glitchiness rules, I guess.

    1. It's good to see students learning civic responsibility in a  "hands on, boots on" way. Civil disobedience against censorship was not the lesson the new Jeffco School Board was planning, but in attempting to rewrite history books, they may have awakened a sleeping monster. Follow #jeffcostandup for more.

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