In Colorado’s second-largest school district, residents overwhelmingly voted to recall three conservative school board members who floated a controversial proposal that the Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum be changed to “promote patriotism.” Voters ended up creating an entirely new school board in Jefferson County.
The College Board, which created the guidelines for the AP history standards, recently faced major backlash from conservative groups that claimed the standards should include “American exceptionalism” and did not approve of the College Board’s choice to include more information about violence against Native Americans and the growing influence of social conservatives. Conservatives also complained that there was not any mention of the Founding Fathers.
After the guidelines became controversial and state legislators and school board members decried them as unpatriotic, College Board announced the guidelines for AP history curriculum would be changed to include “American exceptionalism” and include the founding fathers. Those changes were immediate. The College Board said it had “previously assumed it wasn’t something it needed to spell out as part of what would be taught in an American history course.”
Last fall, students in Jefferson County schools protested the updated standards through walk-outs and the majority of teachers at two high schools — Golden High School and Jefferson High School — called in sick to protest school board changes. Students said they were concerned they wouldn’t learn about about civil rights movements because the board was concerned about encouraging or condoning “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law,” according to Talking Points Memo.
Conservative board members also pushed for controversial reforms, such as tying teacher pay to teacher evaluations, hiring a new superintendent from neighboring Douglas County, and tightening the budget belt. As many as 64 percent of voters favored the recall. Jefferson County voters also elected two board members to create a new board, according to the Denver Post. Three school board members in Douglas County also lost their seats.
The way that schools teach history classes has become increasingly controversial over the past few years, as conservatives accuse schools of trying to paint an unflattering, if accurate, picture of the nation’s history.
In August, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who is running for president, raised the spectre of Obama creating national history standards that would be about “victimhood” and “America’s shortcomings and failures.” Jindal was referring to making history part of the Common Core curricula. Although Common Core was implemented by the states, not the president, and do not include history standards, both myths continue to be pushed by conservatives opposing the standards.
Parents and educators are pushing back against a rewrite of American history that glosses over oppression of people of color, however. A game about the slave trade was heavily criticized on Twitter and resulted in the CEO of the gaming company taking out the portion that stacked slaves like Tetris, although the main criticism was that such a game existed in the first place. A Houston mother’s Facebook post about her son’s textbook’s inaccurate portrayal of slavery went viral last month and resulted in the textbook company, McGraw-Hill, rewriting the section and publishing new books as well as offering to send schools updated textbooks.