Imagine an AP U.S. History class in which real history—successes, mistakes, paradoxes and failures—has conveniently been forgotten. Study guide: valiant European “explorers” arrived on virgin continent and built a free new world. Heroic citizens of the new country constructed a prosperous nation. The Greatest Generation won World War II. Worthy citizens went through financial hardship in 2008, but persevered and are now working to maintain the great American principles of freedom and democracy. Wait a minute! What happened to reality?
This is the “U.S. History” that the Jefferson County School Board in Colorado wants to teach in its schools. The five-person conservative-majority Board has ordered a review of the AP U.S. History curriculum. This “review” is a blatant attempt to ignore the existence of minorities and systems of oppression and to further whitewash U.S. history.
The controversy in Jefferson County began last November with the election of three new conservative School Board members: John Newkirk, Julie Williams, and Ken Witt. Their campaigns were funded through the Koch Brothers, resulting in a conservative majority. Not long after, the Jefferson County Superintendent, Cindy Stevenson, resigned. The new board hired a scouting firm to compile a list of 64 candidates for the job and then selected only one finalist—Dan McMinimee, a supporter of the conservative majority and of the “review” of the AP History curriculum.
Julie Williams, one of the new school board members, specifically identifies diversity as one of the things she objects to in the AP U.S. History curriculum.
According to an article published by the Los Angeles Times on September 24, Williams said, “[The AP curriculum] has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential to the understanding of American history for generations.”
Williams’ proposed “omissions” from the curriculum include the false portrayal of European colonists as brave explorers instead of perpetrators of genocide. Williams’s desire to ignore brutality against Native Americans is also obvious given the timing of the School Board’s review request—right after the College Board, maker of AP tests, announced curriculum changes that would include more emphasis on the relationship between Native Americans and Europeans.
According to a Washington Post article published on October 5, 2014, Williams said, “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder [or] social strife.” Disallowing any mention of “civil disorder” or “social strife” would prohibit discussions about the Civil Rights Movement, women’s suffrage and gay rights; even the American Revolution and the Boston Tea party would fall afoul of this rule.
Outraged, students at Evergreen High School in Jefferson County responded ironically to Williams’s objection to civil disorder by walking out of school on September 22, 2014. By September 24, 2014, thousands of students had walked out of nine Jefferson County high schools and hundreds of teachers organized “sickouts” that forced multiple schools to shut down.
Despite the protests, Williams still fails to see the issue as one of racism and censorship.
In the September 24 articles in the Los Angeles Times, Williams said, “To be accused of censorship? Seriously? That is just ridiculous.”
However, the College Board sums up the true implications of the School Board’s actions. In a statement released in the Los Angeles Times article on September 24, the College Board stated, “At the root of current objections to this highly regarded process is a blatant disregard for the facts.”