History Being Made In Jefferson County Over AP History Course Review

Originally Published September 30, 2014

Here in Colorado, a not so quiet battle is raging in one county over a very important issue -history.

More specifically, the battle is raging between students, teachers, parents and concerned citizens and the Jefferson County Board of Education.

The battle is not over wages and teacher evaluations as some agencies would have you believe, although they are a part of it. The real battle, the one that has gotten students to walk out of the majority of high schools in the district, is over the proposed revision of the district’s AP History courses.

Dismayed by the new national AP History Curriculum guidelines, known currently as APUSH, Jefferson County School Board member Julie Williams made this proposal:

“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. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

This is being seen by many as an attempt to censor history; parents, students, teachers, county residents are offended by the implication that the founding of the country itself could no longer be taught, as well as many other aspects of American History which occurred through civil disobedience, such as the Civil Rights Movement, The American Revolution, the history of the Great Depression, the suffrage movement and so forth. Williams has insisted that the new APUSH course and guidelines leave out key figures in history and focus on the negative aspects primarily.

This, of course, has gotten the framers of APUSH rather upset as well ( a committee made up of college professors), who state that APUSH was designed to be like a college course, with a focus on critical thinking skills. A look at the APUSH examples and guidelines show that the course material does indeed try to make a move away from the multiple choice test (also known by teachers and students alike as “multiple guess”) and emphasizes a move toward the essay answer, in which students must read for comprehension, and make an analysis of statements and documents presented to them. By answering in depth, they show a fuller understanding of the material, and the ability to think critically and form their own opinions about history and current events.

Independent agencies have reviewed the course material and textbooks, and find that everything Williams claims is left out is indeed present in the coursework. Another Colorado school district, Cherry Creek, is already using APUSH without any problems or issues.

This, however, is not enough for Williams and the other BOE members, who still believe there is too much emphasis on the “negative” history of the country.

So the students took things into their own hands. By the end of last week, students in the majority of the district high schools had staged walk outs – a plan introduced, developed and implemented by students alone. In one instance, at Alameda High School, the students walked out after meeting with school superintendent, Dan McMinimee, dissatisfied with the vagueness of the answers he gave them regarding the review proposal and APUSH.

These walk outs hit the national news, and as a result the College Board stepped in, stating their support for the Jefferson County students, and releasing a statement that said:

A Statement on Censorship of AP® U.S. History

26 September 2014

The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member’s request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course. The board member claims that some historical content in the course “encouraged or condoned civil disorder, social strife, or disregard for the law.”

These students recognize that the social order can – and sometimes must – be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history – from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course.

The College Board will always listen to principled concerns based on evidence – and in fact has announced a public-review process for the AP U.S. History course framework. But in light of current events, an important policy reminder is in order:

College faculty and AP teachers collaborate to develop, deliver, and evaluate AP courses and exams. Their partnership ensures that these courses align with the content and rigor of college-level learning, while still providing teachers with the flexibility to examine topics of local interest in greater depth.
To offer a course labeled “AP” or “Advanced Placement,” a school must agree to meet the expectations set for such courses by the more than 3,300 colleges and universities across the globe that use AP Exam scores for credit, placement, or consideration in the admission process.

As vital context for the courageous voices of the students in Colorado, the AP community, our member institutions and the American people can rest assured: If a school or district censors essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the “AP” designation. “

This story has gained national recognition; all over the country, and indeed all over the world, people are watching to see what the outcome will be. Even the politics of Colorado are being affected by this, as the candidates for governor take sides on the issue in the upcoming election.

Locally, students are making Colorado and National history, and they are getting the best education in what civil disobedience can do to change the course of American history, just as their forefathers knew.

If you’d like to read more about the topics above, please visit these links:

On APUSH and American History Association’s endorsement of it-https://www.historians.org/Documents/AHA%20Letters/APUSH-Framework.pdf

An overview of the PUSH framework and what it entails –http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/courses/teachers_corner/3501.html

A google search of “Jefferson County, Co students protest” will bring you an array of articles, everything from a Fox News reporter calling the students punks to full support of the student’s actions from a variety of sources across the country.


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