History, Sunny Side Up



Photo Credit: The Washington Times

One day, when they write the history of the Jefferson County, Colorado high schools, they’ll leave out what happened Tuesday.

At least if the current school board there has anything to say about it.

What happened Tuesday is that hundreds of high school students walked out of their classes to protest a proposal by the conservative school board to establish a committee to review all texts used in the district’s history curriculum to ensure that they promote “positive aspects of the United States and its heritage,” such as “citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.”

And NOT promote “negative” aspects of American history, like “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

The high school kids’ exodus would definitely fall under the latter “negative” category, so according to the school board’s own guidelines, it shan’t be mentioned again.

The epicenter of the hubbub is Arvada, a Denver suburb, and the school board has been a tempest in a teapot, dividing 3-2 on a host of issues, ever since conservatives became the “three.”

This is only the latest “history” of our own, of conservative school boards acting nutty. Usually it occurs in Texas or Kansas, with the boards there deciding that the curriculum for science classes teaching evolution in its entirety should be “God created everything. Class dismissed.” Or else order science teachers to “teach the controversy,” i.e., that the region’s dominant religion’s wholly unscientific notions of creation be put forth as an alternative scientific explanation.

These boards aren’t satisfied unless the kids come out of school knowing less than they did going in.

The Jefferson County school board’s decision was more than a bit ironic considering that the country came into existence because of a small political protest called “The Revolutionary War.” Presumably the revised history curriculum would apply to events that took place after that little skirmish.

As a junior at Arvada High School eloquently put it, “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

Still, it’s not like the revised “put a happy face” guidelines would mean historical events were totally erased. Rather something like the 3/5 Compromise, which called for black slaves to be counted as 3/5 of a person, would henceforth be taught as a bill that made blacks’ “deliriously happy” because “3/5” is more “half-full” than “half-empty.”

In drafting the new guidelines, the school board obviously also missed the inherent contradiction between promoting “respect for authority,” and “respect for individual rights,” which have oh, occasionally found themselves bumping –or clubbing – heads the past 50 years.

So, maybe the school board should’ve just declared that American history ended in 1960. It’d still have to finagle its way around a few uncomfortable hiccups, like the Civil War, women’s suffragette movement, the 30’s labor movement and Japanese internment during WW II, but at least it wouldn’t have to deal with the irksome last half century, a continuous maelstrom of upheaval, what with the Civil Rights movement, black power movement, Free Speech movement, women’s liberation movement, anti-Vietnam War movement, the entire 60s decade, and even The Tea Party movement, of which there’s a decent chance one or more of these school board members belongs.

One of the conservative board members reportedly had a dream in which Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was only a dream.

Of course, if the school board knew its history to begin with, it would’ve known that decrees like this are almost destined to backfire, as did this one. Not only did it provoke what was likely the first protest of many of these students’ young lives, but the board retreated, made some hastily “we were misinterpreted” comments, and postponed discussion of the matter for another month, thus illustrating to the high school’ers that protests work.

For Jefferson County, Colorado, it was history in the making.


About Stan Sinberg

Stan is an award-winning newspaper columnist, radio commentator, and features writer whose humor has appeared in everything from the NY Times to WSJ and MAD Magazine. Stan is a native New Yorker living on the west coast. His website is www.stansinberg.com and you can email him at stan@stansinberg.com or follow him on Twitter @ssinberg1
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