The Jefferson County Board of Education in suburban Denver agreed
to appoint a committee to review newly revised guidelines for the
Advanced Placement history courses in the 84,000-student district,
over complaints from parents, teachers and students who voiced their
concerns at the Thursday night meeting.
The resolution, forwarded by conservative member Julie Williams,
originally said the current Advanced Placement framework focused on
negative aspects of American history, and the committee should look
at modifying it to promote "patriotism" and "respect for authority."
The board pulled the more pointed language from William's original
proposal before Thursday's hearing, but not before it sparked
student walk-outs at nearly all of the district's 17 high schools
and one middle school over the past three weeks.
The question of how U.S. teens learn history in public schools is
the latest flash point in a liberal-conservative fight over national
curricula that had previously focused on more scientific topics such
as teaching creationism versus evolution.
Opponents of the plan called it an attempt by the board to censor
and whitewash history to advance a conservative political agenda.
Board president Ken Witt said last week that the teachers' union,
which has been at odds with the board over merit pay and other
issues, was behind the protests.
He called the student walk-outs and a high number of teacher
absences that canceled classes at four high schools "the
manipulation of our students."
By a 3-2 vote, with the conservative majority prevailing, the board
voted to appoint the committee, which will include students and
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About 100 people spoke at the hearing, most in opposition to the
Michele Patterson, president of the Jefferson County Schools
parent-teacher association, blasted some board members for
"degrading" students by calling them pawns of the teachers' union.
"You should be ashamed of yourselves," she said.
Ross Izard, an education policy analyst for the Denver-based
Independence Institute think tank, said neither a "misguided"
argument about censorship, nor a debate over a new merit-based pay
deal for teachers, fully explains the walk-outs.
"Instead, thousands of kids and teachers have been misled into
fighting a vicious political proxy war between the union and the
school board," he said.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Curtis Skinner)
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