Monday, September 29, 2014

Students Protest Anti-Protest Curriculum

In many respects US history can be understood as one long, uninterrupted act of civil (and often not so civil) disobedience, from the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution, to abolition efforts and Civil War, right through to more contemporary suffrage, civil and economic rights movements.

So when members of the Jefferson County, Colorado school board recently attempted to replace their high school AP history curriculum with one that "promotes citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" and that doesn't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," teachers and students have reacted like any good American citizens: they walked out in protest.

"Our entire history, things that changed America for the better, were acts of civil disobedience," said Debbie Velarde, a junior at Wheat Ridge High School. "The Declaration of Independence was an act of civil disobedience."

I've written before about students walking out in protest. Watching the videos and listening to their words always puts a lump in my throat. In the words of Arvada High School senior Leighanne Grey:

"As we grow up, you always hear that America's the greatest, the land of the free and the home of the brave. For all the good things we've done, we've done some terrible things. It's important to learn about those things, or we're doomed to repeat the past."

This is the core purpose of public education in a democratic society, not vocational training, not math and literacy, but to provide our children the opportunity to acquire the skills, knowledge and experience to fully participate as citizens in the ongoing project of self-governance. I'm proud of these kids and proud of their teachers and parents for supporting them. So in that regard I reckon I agree with the school board's attempts to promote citizenship and patriotism, but there are two sides to capitalism, respect for authority is always conditional upon deserving that respect, and without a healthy amount of civil disorder, social strife, and disregard for the law, our nation simply would not exist.

The school board has already put the proposal on hold for a month, but this battle isn't over in Jefferson County. The Koch family foundation affiliated anti-democracy organization Americans for Prosperity is supporting the school board's actions and they have deep, deep pockets. This is far from over.

My question now is who is going to stand up for the elementary school kids when this school board starts reviewing it's health education curriculum as they've announced? It will have to be their parents. I hope they take inspiration from the teenagers.

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1 comment:

Misunderstood-J said...

Amazing to see someone discuss freedom of speech and then deny someone else's. I was turned onto your blog and I think you write some very informative things. Have you personally looked at the curriculum being taught currently? When the beginning of our nation is reduced to a bunch of angry white guys who hated women and blacks, you don't get facts, you get someone's idea of what they think. I say don't worry though. As Vladimir Lenin said, "You take away someone's heritage and they are easily persuaded."