Saturday, September 27, 2014

Be True - And Fact-Based - To Your School

I mentioned once that I took AP American History back in the day.  It was one of the various classes that helped towards earning college credits - studying for the Advanced Placement exams, where if you scored 3 to 5 on the exam(s) you garnered those credits on that topic - while surviving high school.

It's a big deal for any high schooler aiming to get a college degree.  Get a lot of AP credits through a national program, look good to potential universities while doing it, find yourself earning a way to a major institution - in this case William and Mary WILL do, thank you Steely Dan - that can open doors when you hit the job market.

So what happens when a county school board decides to mess with the Advanced Placement program?  When a school board controlled by a Far Right contingent obsessed with re-writing history - of white-washing it - decides to edit the books and the exam materials to remove any history of civil protest and questioning of authority?

You get Jefferson County (Colorado) School Board, where a thousand students marched in protest - I think this counts as irony, teacher - against the school board trying to remove the very concept of protests from the history books (via Digby):
Hundreds of students walked out of classrooms around suburban Denver on Tuesday in protest over a conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority, in a show of civil disobedience that the new standards would aim to downplay...
...Student participants said their demonstration was organized by word of mouth and social media. Many waved American flags and carried signs, including messages that read “There is nothing more patriotic than protest.”
“I don’t think my education should be censored. We should be able to know what happened in our past,” said Tori Leu, a 17-year-old student who protested at Ralston Valley High School in Arvada.
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law...”

Any honest American might spot the problem right away: the editing of texts to define what citizenship and patriotism are, the editing of texts to "don't encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."  So who gets to define citizenship?  Who gets to define patriotism?  Who says what encourages or condones civil disorder or disregard of the law?  Hint: the Conservatives (the same Conservatives who'll tell their own gun-toting followers to prepare for secession and Second Amendment remedies) will tell you that only Conservatives should...

The proposal from Julie Williams, part of the board’s conservative majority, has not been voted on and was put on hold last week. She didn’t return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday, but previously told Chalkbeat Colorado, a school news website, that she recognizes there are negative events that are part of U.S. history that need to be taught.
“There are things we may not be proud of as Americans,” she said. “But we shouldn’t be encouraging our kids to think that America is a bad place...”
Williams is one of those conservatives who thinks that because Jim Crow is no more that racism is a thing of the past (when it's clearly not), who thinks that we shouldn't consider the darker ramifications of Manifest Destiny, who probably prefers we never even remember things like the Sand Creek Massacre or the Tulsa Riots.
A student demonstrator, Tyrone G. Parks, a senior at Arvada High School, said Tuesday that the nation’s foundation was built on civil protests, “and everything that we’ve done is what allowed us to be at this point today. And if you take that from us, you take away everything that America was built off of...”

It's heartening to see the students rise up: they understand full well that an ideological re-write of their curriculum can well kill off their hopes of getting into good colleges.  It's also good news that the College Board - the organization overseeing the AP exam system - is telling Jefferson's School Board that if they mess with the AP materials by "censor(ing) essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the 'AP' designation."  Meaning no accredited university will accept it.

With luck, all this uproar will convince the conservative board members to back down (they've already delayed the vote).  But this is not the end of it.

We are under attack in this nation.  There is a movement among the conservatives to demolish the public education system.  Our schools, which have operated like this for decades if not centuries, are facing massive defunding efforts: the slashing of budgets, the wrecking of programs.  Our schools, once places meant to share a means of teaching our kids now getting revamped into privatized profit machines.  Our schools, which try to teach our children how the world is - our science, our math, our language, our literature, our history - are being forced to push political propaganda and religious nuttery.

This is a call to all Americans, all registered voters this midterm cycle: a lot of us are going to have school board elections and county board elections and state legislature elections and gubernatorial elections.  NOW is the time to look, really look, at the candidates for each office that will have a major impact on our communities and our schools.  NOW is the time to vote out every Far Right wingnut who wants to rewrite our history and shred our studies of fact-based sciences.  NOW is the time to clean out the greedheads trying to push vouchers and charter schools down our throats.

NOW is the time to save our schools.  Before the damage gets worse, before we lose our public schools to privatized money-grubbers who'll chew up all our taxpayer dollars while under-educating our kids into idiocy.  Before our kids get taught in biology that Jesus walked with dinosaurs, that the Earth is still flat and the center of the universe, and that it's all just 6,000 years old despite the record of human history going back further.

Time to get politics, greed, and fallacy out of our schools.

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