After Protests Over History Curriculum, School Board Tries To Compromise For weeks, Colorado high school students protested a proposal that the AP history course promote patriotism. The school board dropped some controversial language, but voted to review the curriculum.
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After Protests Over History Curriculum, School Board Tries To Compromise

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After Protests Over History Curriculum, School Board Tries To Compromise

After Protests Over History Curriculum, School Board Tries To Compromise

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The school board in Jefferson County, Colorado last night tried to find a compromise in a dispute over history. The school board tried to change the tone of its history curriculum in recent weeks. Hundreds of students walked out of class in protest. Jenny Brundin reports from Colorado Public Radio.

JENNY BRUNDIN, BYLINE: When school board member Julie Williams heard that conservatives across the country were upset about the new advanced placement history curriculum, she drew up her own resolution. It would set up a committee to review the district's curriculum. The resolution stated that AP history classes should promote patriotism and the benefits of the free enterprise system and should not encourage or condone civil disorder.

JULIE WILLIAMS: Basically what I'm asking for is for history to be taught complete without bias. So the good, the bad, the ugly, without bias.

BRUNDIN: The resolution, though, sparked a firestorm of protests.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) My school, my voice.

BRUNDIN: It started with 100 students like Ben Smith from Standley Lake High School, northwest of Denver. He says students don't want their history censored and don't like that the resolution called for promoting the positive aspects of U.S. history.

BEN SMITH: The negative parts of American history aren't necessarily unpatriotic. We need to know those things so we don't repeat them in the future.

BRUNDIN: The protests spread across throughout the district to more than a dozen high schools. Teachers were also angered. Four high schools closed for a day when teachers organized a sickout. They say the board isn't listening to them - or parents - on a range of issues, including pay. But the AP curriculum, for which students can get college credit, is the flashpoint. The revamped framework aims to deemphasize rote memorization and instead develop critical thinking skills. But some conservatives say there's an anti-American bias. Larry Krieger is a retired New Jersey high school teacher who is leading a national fight against the new framework. Krieger testified via video conference before Colorado's state board of education. He says the new materials don't mention events like D-Day or key historical characters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LARRY KRIEGER: The founders are not discussed. Ben Franklin, not there.

BRUNDIN: But that doesn't mean teachers will leave out D-Day and key historical characters, says Fred Anderson, a history professor at the University of Colorado.

FRED ANDERSON: These are usually the very best teachers in a school. You don't have to tell them to talk about Wilson and Madison and Franklin and Washington at the Constitutional Convention - they do that.

BRUNDIN: Anderson helped write the new curriculum.

ANDERSON: They would find it incredibly condescending to be directed at that level, so the absence of mention is not in any sense an exclusion - and it's a misconception, I think, about the framework that that's the case.

BRUNDIN: In Jefferson County, after two weeks of protest, the original resolution language about patriotism was dropped. But the resolution still calls for a committee to review course materials. Meanwhile, the College Board, which administers the AP test, says if a school or district censors essential concepts from an AP course, that course could no longer bear the advanced placement designation. For NPR News, I'm Jenny Brundin in Denver.

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