An educational battle in Colorado shapes up to be the most entertaining sideshow in a state already replete with entertaining politics.
The brouhaha that’s taken center stage is happening in Jefferson County, where the teachers unions have orchestrated what amounts to a strike in response to the elected school board proposing a review of the Advance Placement history curriculum in an effort to de-politicize it. Ironically, but by no means accidentally, these efforts have been derided by the unions as “censorship” — an interesting epithet to level on an attempt to ensure high school history instruction reflects an accurate chronicling of historical events and an objective analysis of what they mean as opposed to the approach taken by the radicalized AP board that views history as a malleable subject whose purpose is not to record, but to provide a narrative for fashionable political thought.
Advance Placement standards have taken considerable heat from various corners. The College Board, a private organization that produces the SATs and AP exams, recently put forth a set of history standards outlining what high schools should teach from an unabashedly leftist viewpoint. The standards, emerging primarily from the ooze of NYU historian Thomas Bender, have as their focus a “transnational” approach that takes relativism to new lows and essentially eschews the very idea of the nation-state. In this rendering of history, the United States is merely “a province among provinces” and any examination of historical events outside the prism of internationalism is taboo. Likewise, any of the products of the west (especially of America), such as rule of law, free markets, international trade and individual liberty are necessarily cast in a negative light. Needless to say, this approach doesn’t lend itself to an objective instruction in the facts of history.
Entirely appropriate to its charge as a locally elected school board, the Jefferson County board decided to initiate a review of these new criteria and propose they be replaced with a more accurate curriculum that strips the overtly political bias; ensures the facts of American history are accurately presented; and, yes, due respect paid to the historically unprecedented net positives that western civilization and the United States have brought to mankind — not whitewashing the numerous mistakes or magnifying them, either.
By the reaction of the local teachers union, you would have thought the school board had issued an edict to violate all the amendments in the Bill of Rights simultaneously at noon (not that the U.S. Bill of Rights is better than anyone else’s, of course.)
Students, malleable by definition, are being used as pawns by the unions. This is hardly testament to any great political skill. What could require less effort than convincing 15- to 17-year-olds to cut class, especially in ostensible protest to reforms that would actually require them to learn something? I rather doubt that few of these teachers are taking the opportunity to illustrate the paradox of invoking, however vulgarly, individual rights to protest a suggested curriculum that would point out the social value of individual rights.
In this case, there are other issues involved, specifically involving a recent spat between the local union and school board over contract negotiations. This, almost certainly, has been more of a catalyst for the ridiculous protests than the curriculum review. But the idea a proposed curriculum review that would require teachers to impart historical fact rather than ideologized relativism is sufficient cause to shut down an entire school system is instructive.
The re-purposing of education from its actual role of preserving and passing along knowledge to its new role of molding society according to a political design has been a principle objective of the left for a very long time. Teachers bear an inherent level of authority — what a teacher says in a classroom is considered the truth. That makes them an invaluable tool for planting axioms. This is on full display in Jefferson County, whatever the initial underlying motivations for picking the particular fight.
The spectacle of teachers abandoning their duties and dragging gullible teen-agers — whom they’re supposed to be teaching — into the streets to protest the responsible actions of a duly elected school board that actually takes its job seriously is a symptom of the cultural problem this nation faces, the correction of which must go beyond reviewing and replacing AP history standards. But that would be a good start.