You guys. I think I need some help here on deciding who I should be pissed off at during this whole bangarang. Or maybe I just need to understand what I am missing so that I can more accurately judge the people around me who are all up in arms about this.
In trying to wrap my head around what the crux is of the argument on the APUSH (Advanced Placement US History) curriculum change that is prompting all the sick-outs and walk –outs in Jefferson County. I know it’s silly and antiquated, but as usual, I’ve gone and done some research before forming an opinion. And I am befuddled.
What I keep seeing the news report on is a quote from a proposal from one of the conservative members of the review board – Julie Williams, the quote goes like this:
“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”
Since then she has also said “I don’t think we should encourage our kids to be little rebels”
Last week, she put out a statement regarding the bevvy of claims that she is into censoring history like “who me???”. Well, her comments above are pretty damning, and please note that the first quote was directly from her proposal which consisted of less than one full page if you’re using gigantic text (to my dismay, there was not “Check Yes or No” box handwritten at the bottom). That is – assuming I am looking at the same thing you all are looking at – which I am sort of praying that I’m not.
Anyway, the proposal asks for a review of changes to the curriculum to be conducted by a committee which would be seated by the board. This committee would review for standards, objectionable materials, accuracy/omissions, etc. Then they would decide if something required public discussion or not…etc. Nevertheless, as much as I love to make fun of the super right wingers – what she asks for doesn’t seem unreasonable, although with a stretch one could say that she is asking a bit much to have the US portrayed positively, when it is commonly accepted as a fact that the US has not always behaved positively.
But she wants clarification between theory and fact. Like seriously, it’s in that proposal and the proposal itself is only two paragraphs so it’s not excruciating to read. But anyway – this would be a good thing if you’re thinking history and human health – or wouldn’t it?
Basically, Jeffco has a problem on its hands. The people have a problem on their hands. There have been “sick outs” with teachers calling in sick – resulting in schools shutting down over the last several days. There have been several student organized walkouts in protest.
I have a problem on my hands because I am having a hell of a time figuring out who to be mad at.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care much for or about Jeffco. I went there for part of my disastrous public school education. I found it to be generally lackluster in terms of bringing out the brilliance in kids. My kid doesn’t go to Jeffco. All in, I actually don’t have much reason to care about this at all except that I have friends whose kids are in Jeffco, I want to know what the fuss is about, and look for any signs of trouble on a larger scale.
So even though I don’t have time for this crap, I started digging.
Based on what I’ve found – it sounds like the teachers are upset for a few reasons – a primary reason being the arbitrary nature of the review board. According to a statement posted by Conifer school teachers on September 19th, they seem to be upset that there is an exclusionary approach to the review of the curriculum, a lack of transparency in the review process, and that the people reviewing their performance are not qualified to do so. All of these sound like legitimate reasons to be upset. I’d be upset if my reviews were conducted by people who had no idea how to evaluate me, and if there was no way for me to know if I was being fairly evaluated against my peers. The teachers don’t seem to take tremendous issue with compensation being tied to results.
So the students are staging walkouts and protests about their right to learn, and how they don’t want to be controlled by the machine, etc etc. It’s a little hard to tell, but it sounds like high school students are taking the sides of their teachers (don’t tell them). It is hard to tell if they are mad about the new curriculum or the proposed review committee who will be reviewing changes to it…
Which leads me to…
So what about the curriculum? I keep seeing it reported – and you are probably seeing this too: that great civil rights era figures such as MLK and Rosa Parks are being excluded, that they are censoring and revising history to exclude the hallmark American tradition of
importing slave labor, stealing land, creating laws which are impossible to abide by, civil disobedience, etc. At least this appears to be the basis for the outrage of parents and students who are angry and standing up in defense of their right to learn.
I don’t know about you – but I did
slip through the cracks of attend a Jeffco school. We were surely taught a little about MLK (not about the fact that the it was proven in court that the US Gov was involved in the conspiracy for his murder, as well as the cover-up). We were certainly taught more about MLK than Malcolm X or any of the government’s involvement in his death. We were taught quite alot about Rosa Parks, and a little bit about Harriet Tubman –who – mind you were also BOTH criminals by the pathetic application of what constituted law at that time.
Anyway, it has long been my opinion that if I wanted to learn something – I needed to go dig for it on my own. This came to me out of necessity given my less than stellar school record, but ironic ongoing penchant for learning. So in flipping through the forty eight kazillion or so pages related to the new APUSH curriculum and associated classroom resources, I saw some pretty interesting stuff. I’m not looking to pass AP US History, nor am I looking to teach it – so I am just going to give you a couple examples here.
In the Editor’s Introduction to the module entitled “White-Native American Contact in Early American History” by Jason George , I read…“…many generations of historians portrayed American Indians as either “murderous savages” or as “relatively docile allies of white people”; few accounts saw them as “important actors of their own” (Brinkley, 2003, p. 58). Recent scholarship, however, has done a great deal to give American Indians a more central place in the narrative of early North American development.”
Of course this is 46 bleeping pages long, and is accompanied by several other documents which are intended to be supplementary and special focus materials to help teachers. But it actually doesn’t seem to bad or far-fetched to me that the revised curriculum seems to want to treat humans like humans in it’s retelling of the story of this nation.
What about this part, and excerpt from “Incorporating African American History into the U.S. History Survey Course” by Kevin Gaines?
Gaines supposes that we need to adjust how we look at race politics in our history courses. He refers to “Thomas Holt’s recent study, The Problem of Race in the Twenty-First Century. For Holt, race is an ever-changing, elusive, historically variable entity that requires us to engage its complex meanings within a specific historical moment rather than attempt a fixed and transhistorical definition.”
Oh but hey – maybe this is part of what pissed off the conservative lady, because it doesn’t paint the US as the golden child of the world…???
What about this: “The horrific institution of lynching, which peaked in the South during the 1890s, posed a stark challenge to the rule of law. The foremost antilynching activist, the black journalist Ida B. Wells, argued both in America and overseas in England that lynching placed the United States on trial, casting doubt on its claims to be a Christian civilization. Wells’s activities as crusading journalist, settlement house reformer, and women’s suffragist make her a consummate progressive reformer, even though she is usually perceived (if at all) solely within the context of African American leadership. Her powerful antilynching writings suggested that Wells shared in the progressive reformer’s belief that an enlightened and informed public would demand the remediation of social problems.”
Did anyone ever teach YOU about Ida B. Wells??? Did you also know there is a section about Women’s History, and some apparent intent to weave this all together as part of one big story of this country?
Now, I admit I was a handful as a kid – so in fucking with me about petty things like showing up regularly and who set the bathroom on fire – Jeffco failed to recognize and appreciate the seedling of my genius (I kid, I kid). So I wasn’t in the AP classes that would have been affected by this – but maybe they taught AP kids all the real important TRUTH all along? Maybe us regular ass kids were taught the PB&J version – now that would be something, right? Anyway, I for one have LONG been of the opinion that they do not teach everything you might want to know about history – or even the truth necessarily in our public schools.
Here’s my problem. I can’t decide who to be angry at. Should it be Williams and her one page “proposal” which literally made me LOL when I thought that might have been the catalyst to all the unrest? Cause I do more thoughtful and painstaking writing when I am making my grocery list each week.
Should it be the teachers who are demanding transparency in how they are evaluated?
Should it be the board for adopting the new curriculum in the first place? Or the hypothetical committee that would review changes to it?
Should it be the high school kids for giving ambiguous answers as to why they are walkin out?
I MUST be missing something. Can someone help me understand who is the real villain? Pretty Please?