Today we have open letter from a JeffCo parent who took the time to investigate Julie Williams’ wild accusations about the AP U.S. History program.
In every case when someone actually checks the APUSH guidelines against Williams’ allegations, the allegations are found to be untrue. But our Julie does not appear to allow facts to sway her made up mind. Perhaps Ms. Simon can change her mind?
As promised I read the framework and I was shocked by two things.
1. Julie Williams could not take the time to read the framework before writing (creating, publishing) her proposal. I believe a lot of the subsequent interviews would have been much different had she read the framework at some point beforehand. It was 149 pages, I read it in one evening. As I stated to Mrs. Williams when she was asking if she could have my support during her election, “I need to read up on the issues and see where I stand”.
This whole débâcle could have been prevented with just an evening spent reading the actual framework. I watched the YouTube video posted on various sites as a rebuttal to the protests. Mrs. Williams quoted the video almost verbatim.
2. It is almost as if the framework was confused for a history book. As I read it, it forced me to think about those events. I am not a history geek and I took the bare minimum of history classes in college. I did take an US History class at Northern Arizona University. It appeared that a lot of the same subjects were covered in the APUSH proposal.
Now, please note I grew up in a very red state and I was raised by Republican parents. I do not feel that one single history class turned me liberal.
First, I would like to share my brother’s point of view. He is history geek and a Republican. This is what he said about history:
“Individuals are not as important as the backdrop that spurred the events. We all know how bad the Nazis were, we know who the bad guys are, know the dates, locations and events but never believe for one second that in the same situation we could become Nazis. Even though in my life time we have witnessed 4 genocides that matched the scale of the Nazis. How does it keep happening unless we are not really learning the lesson or the only ones that are listening are the ones spurring the events?
History should place an individual in that class room in 1933 Germany, with the propaganda, poverty and hysteria. Know that their friends, family and role models are falling in line. History is not about political correctness. Feeling guilty, judgment. It’s a study of human behavior under certain circumstances. Understand that if transformed into a student in Nazi Germany most of us would collaborate.”
When asked if it was promoting an anti-American agenda or critical thinking (he replied),
“It all depends on the instructor, but yes, as it’s designed would actually give history a functional purpose. It’s tricky. We have to own our past, how much time should we spend condemning the actions if we are still directly benefiting from them, and it’s reversal would cause us great hardship. We know it was wrong to take the land from the Indians without direct compensation but would we be willing to give up our homes to do the right thing I really don’t think it’s to be anti-American to teach them not to repeat the past knowing that in the same reality we would have done the same thing as our ancestors.”
My brother an Air Force Veteran earned two Associate Degrees, a Bachelor’s Degree in History and his Master’s Degree all while serving our country. He is both educated and a pretty damn good American. I am going to trust his opinion. Also, he posts little known facts about history everyday. I am continuously learning.
Now, my opinion.
At first glance the APUSH framework has an introduction that explains how it is to be used. It does put a lot on the teachers to cover the topics. However, the one quote that keeps sticking out from Julie Williams regarding our Founding Fathers and MLK is that they are omitted. In the introduction page 37 (I apologize I looked at the page that was listed on my computer not the actual page) Martin Luther King Jr. was in fact mentioned: For example, AP teachers reviewing the concept outline clearly identified which concepts called for inclusion of Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, but they were uncertain what examples might be effective for the teaching of Concept 8.2.III.C (attacks on postwar liberalism).
Therefore, the Committee inserted a gray box for that concept, suggesting the examples of Students for a Democratic Society and the Black Panthers.
In no way does this signal that it is more important to teach the Black Panthers than Martin Luther King, Jr. Rather, this gray box signals that AP teachers were already confident in their inclusion of King and Parks elsewhere in the outline, but uncertain where they might choose to include the Students for a Democratic Society.”
I took that to mean that most students would have already learned about MLK and Rosa Parks (2nd grade at Sheridan Green Elementary as I am sure it is the case with most Jeffco schools). Is it the words “liberal or Democratic” that are the problem? If so, maybe the proposal should have reflected that. Again, easily prevented if the framework had not been “skimmed over”.
It is true Columbus is not mentioned in the framework which starts in 1491, but ask any school child when Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” and I’m sure you’ll get the correct response. Not sure why Columbus not being included is controversial since he never did make it to continental America in the first place. Included in the framework: Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, American Revolution.
Now, Mrs. Williams is correct that the founding fathers are not mentioned by name, however, can we really have a conversation about the American Revolution without George Washington? To include such obvious people would make the framework an actual book. Also, it is an insult to both the teachers in Jeffco and the students to assume that
a) The teachers would have a conversation about the Bill of Rights without a mention of Thomas Jefferson and
b) That our best and brightest students do not know who Thomas Jefferson is. (Sheridan Green Elementary students learned about the founding fathers in 6th grade).
To continue on, Lincoln is mentioned by name as well as his Gettysburg Address, Civil War and I am not sure why but, Women’s Rights enters the picture in this time frame. Entering the 1940’s we have the New Deal, Pearl Harbor, the A-Bomb and the “Most Powerful Nation on Earth” is an exact quote.
Now, we get to the part that seems to bring the most controversy: the 1950’s and 1960’s, Civil Rights Act, Black Panthers (Gray box item) and the new Conservatism. This is followed by Reagan and the end of the Cold War. This framework even encompasses the attacks on the September 11, 2001 which a lot of the current APUSH students were old enough to remember what it was like on that day.
I guess I was not shocked by anything in this framework. Reading the sample questions appeared to be a good indication if the student has understood the events, what was going on during the time and not just memorized a bunch of names and dates. The rubric on grading the test was also insightful, it appeared that if you could back your argument up with the “whys” there was no wrong answer. Two people can see the same event completely different. To observe this point, Google the reactions from around the world in 9/11. Also, I admit my reaction is different than my friends who walked through lower Manhattan September 11, 2001. History is subjective and to ban it is nothing short of criminal.
When I was in school, we would have to turn in outlines of the papers we were instructed to write. That outline was the basic idea of what I was going to write about. Names and dates were often omitted, because that would be in the paper. I look at the framework as an outline, I trust our teachers to teach. I also expect our students to be critical thinkers and question the who’s, why’s and how’s all along the way.
Since you have decided that this Curriculum Committee will go through, I would like to volunteer to be the District 1 representative. Not because, “I have nothing better to do” but because I feel it is important to actually read the document and understand it, as I have done. Especially since there seems to be no qualifications for this committee.
Of course, Julie Williams has been the star of this event. She has been on television several times, has had internet memes created about her, even open video letters to her from CNN news hosts. She has eclipsed Ken Witt’s role and John Newkirk’s, but they bear responsibility as well.
The fake ‘compromise’ (it’s not a compromise if the opposition does not agree to it), still gives Julie everything she wants…the political ideological litmus test is now just hidden instead of being in plain sight. The altered committee is no longer a District committee making professional decisions on curricula and it’s supporting texts, but is a Board committee, reporting directly to the Board, and not to McMinimee.
That finessing had to take Newkirk and Witt working with McMinimee (and maybe Miller?) to come up with this camouflaged tactic…unless you believe that Mr. McMinimee developed it on his own without any consultation with his bosses before he presents it to them in public?
That does not fit McMinimee’s style. Everything we have heard out of DougCo about him says he does not sneeze unless it is at a politically appropriate time. We do not think he would dare risk showing up his bosses in public that way.
WNW+M3 desperately want this controversy to go away. They desperately want the students to settle down. They desperately want the media to go back to sleep.
In short, they are desperate.
So show up Thursday, and let them know their desperate hopes are not going to come true.
Time to show them how…
We Can Fight, Jeffco!