Thursday, September 25, 2014

Students, Teachers Fight Against "Vanilla" AP History in Colorado

Student protests
As I noted in a previous blog post (April 26, 2013) I have little or no use for local school boards. They are politicized creatures and are part of what is degrading the educational system in the U.S. In the referenced blog post, for example, I cited way too much interference by School Boards- low level politicos and hacks - whose primary objective is to impose THEIR agenda on schools and dumb down kids.

This was the first thing that struck me on return to the 1992 : the degree of interference in all manner of school policies, even choice of textbooks and curricula. School boards thereby sought to imprint their schools with their own biased slants, agendas and beliefs. Obviously, such micro-managed oversight kills innovation and creativity in its tracks, not to mention the ability of students to achieve an objective insight into the objects of their inquiry..

Now, as if to reinforce this, the battle is on in Jefferson County, Colorado - after a misbegotten local school board has seen fit to try to revamp AP History. This has triggered protests from thousands of students who want their history straight - not perverted, "positivized" or rendered like mush. The teachers also are in full revolt as they should be, since no teacher worth his or her salt ought to bend over to replace genuine history content with PR, and mischievous malarkey. That leads inevitably to the swill we behold from clowns like Larry Schweikart and his  '48 Liberal Lies About American History - when he's the one doing the lying!

Anyway, here's the backstory: like 6 other states Colorado law allows local school boards to override school districts and impose their own history content, such as for AP studies, courses.  Taking advantage of this, the Jefferson County school board held a closed door meeting (wherein most nefarious deeds get hatched) last Thursday.

At the meeting, Board Vice President Julie Williams proposed that a committee be formed to review the current Advanced Placement History Curriculum and change it. She wrote in her goofy proposal:

"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."

Of course, thinking teachers and students mocked this gibberish via Twitter. Two of the tweets:

"Roe vs. Wade was about the best way to cross a river."

"The Declaration of Independence refers to a song by Beyoncé"

These takes are spot on, given if one only teaches the positive aspects of American History one ends up with propaganda, muddled bilge or worse,  pabulum fit only for kindergarteners, and no genuine comprehension of the opposing forces that shaped our history. How, for example, would you portray the Civil War? As just a bunch of opposing armies getting together to sing songs and sign agreements?

If the JeffCo proposal were to succeed, students would never learn about:

- The basis for the American Revolution, or be allowed to read Thomas Paine's fiery 'Common Sense'

- The Haymarket Massacre and the influence of labor unions in U.S, history

- The Civil War and its bloodiest battles such as Shiloh and Antietam

- The Sand Creek Massacre and the betrayal by the U.S. gov't of its signed treaties with the Indians - to take their land.

- The use of propaganda by Edward Bernays to goad the U.S. into WWI

- The assassination of John Kennedy and the role of the CIA, national security state.

- The pretext for the Vietnam War in the Tonkin Gulf Resolution wherein it was falsely claimed that the U.S. fired in N. Vietnamese gunboats in international waters after being fired on first.

- The false pretext for the Iraq war and "Operation Iraqi Freedom"  pushed by Bush, Cheney and the Neocons like Paul Wolfowitz,

The omission of any or all of these would reduce AP history in JeffCo to mush, suitable only for history dummies and  FOX News broadcasters, but not serious students of history. Worse, it would instill false consciousness in any student that accepts it, see e.g.

Let's also be aware it was propagandist and PR maestro Edward Bernays himself who wrote in his booklet, Propaganda:

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government, which is the true ruling power of our country.”

If the curriculum proposed by the JeffCo School Board and Julie Williams doesn't follow Bernays' odious playbook, then I don't know what does.

As for civil disobedience, as one Denver Post letter writer put it (Sept. 24):

"We have seen throughout our history that acts of civil disobedience such as the American Revolution, the labor movement, women's rights, and the civil rights movements often spur needed change."

Indeed! So if Rosa Parks had just sat like a zombie and never moved to the front of that bus in Alabama, there never would have been a bus boycott or much else. She knew she had to choose civil disobedience and in doing so helped create history.  If Martin Luther King had not led marches in Selma and Montgomery, same thing. Ditto for the revolutionaries dumping tea into Boston Harbor. Similarly, if all the Vietnam War protestors had just watched TV all day that illegal war might have gone on years longer with many thousands more deaths.

It follows that schools must therefore not be repositories of false facts or omitted events, lest they become vehicles for creating mere consumers as opposed to citizens, As authors D. Stanley Eitzen and Maxine Baca-Zinn note in their wonderful book, 'In Conflict and Order', p. 443:

"The schools perform several vital functions for the maintenance of the prevailing social, political and economic order.  Through their curricula, testing, and bureaucratic control, and emphasis on competition, the schools reflect the social class 'structure' of society  by processing youth to fit into economic slots similar to those of their parents.."

 Schools thereby became  Agents of Corporate False Consciousness.

Now with actual deliberate AP history curriculum changes proposed, with a conscious effort to hide or blind students to their nation's actual history, the costs and stakes have become much higher. We are now very near, in JeffCo, to what the German students suffered during the reign of Hitler and the Third Reich: the selective  'canned' teaching of history to promote and emphasize "patriotism and respect for authority" over historical truth.  

As D. Stanley EItzen and Ms. Baca-Zinn have observed(ibid.) , respect for authority (the "order" paradigm)  has its place but not in all  arenas and venues.  If one only conformed to authority no change would ever come. Rosa Parks would have remained in her place and not violated "authority" by moving to the front of a bus in Montgomery.  Martin Luther King would have remained in his church and wrote sermons and never taken to the streets.  Vietnam protestors would have stayed in their university classrooms and never made a single protest sign or marched. Oh, and a President like JFK would never have printed $4.2 billion in U.S. Notes outside the Federal Reserve system,  e.g.

or sought a rapprochement with Fidel Castro (including secretly sending medical aid, etc.) while his Joint Chiefs wanted to oust the Cuban leader.

Stephanie Rossi, who teaches AP History at a Jefferson County school put it very well this morning when interviewed on CBS Early Show:

"If we can't talk about the struggles that people go through history, to gain a greater equality, a greater America how can we convey a true story and a complete picture to our students?"

In fact, we cannot, and would only be left with a pseudo-history more to the liking of the Larry Schwiekarts of the world and their clueless followers. 

Fortunately, the protests have forced the JeffCo board members to table the proposal for now but every real citizen needs to pay attention to see if the board will try again to sneak them through.

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