Sunday, October 05, 2014

PNN 10-5-14 - Money Mortgages and Medicine - The Censorship Story

PART I - the Censorship and Misdirection of History
Researched by RW Spisak and the Team of Researchers at FMeLabs

School board members have proposed a new “board committee for curriculum review”  

whose mission would be to 
“promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.”  

One proposal states that 

“Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law [but] should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.” 

Another proposes that committee identify materials that “may reasonably be deemed” to be “objectionable.” 

Students and teachers at the school have vigorously protested the planned changes to the curriculum.


Pam Mazanec (R)
4th Congressional District, Larkspur
Terms of Office: January 2013 – January 2019

- See more at:

Pam is passionate about school choice. She supports allowing parents to direct education funds to the school that best fits their child’s needs, whether public or private. She is also a supporter of ongoing innovations in charter schools, magnet schools, online schools, schools of innovation, and homeschooling. 

Pam understands that a well-educated citizenry is vital to Colorado’s economic future and America’s national security. She is dedicated to seeing all Colorado children succeed and understands the critical role that education plays in their success. 

She is also interested in improving civics education and the wise management of taxpayer dollars. - See more at:

The Jefferson County Board of Education became the focus of a national debate between conservatives and liberals over education standards when it proposed forming a committee to review the curriculum of an Advanced Placement history course that is a mainstay of U.S. students heading to elite colleges.

After a heated meeting on Thursday, and in a move billed as a compromise, the conservative school board in the suburban Denver district approved the formation of a panel to review all district curricula, instead of just the history course, and said it would include student perspectives.



After calling for a history curriculum that downplays "social strife" and emphasizes "respect for authority," a conservative Denver-area school board has attracted the same kind of civil disobedience it had hoped to gloss over in the classroom.

Hundreds of students marched Thursday in the fifth day of demonstrations against the Jefferson County school board, which oversees the second-largest school district in Colorado. Protests began last Friday after members of the board called for a review of the new Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum to see whether it promotes "respect for authority" or encourages "civil disorder, social strife or disregard for the law."

By Thursday, the protests had grown to include nearly 1,000 students from Columbine, Lakewood, Bear Creek and Dakota Ridge high schools.

"There are substantial numbers of us who want honesty and integrity in all of our classrooms, not just AP U.S. History," Maggie Ramseur, a senior at Dakota Ridge High School, told The Huffington Post. "We fear that if the school board gets the power to change the APUSH curriculum, they will have the precedent to make even more dangerous and controlling changes to our education down the road. The policies they are suggesting are ridden with political agendas, something that belongs in our curriculum about as much as religious agendas do."

The proposal in question would create a school board committee tasked with ensuring that all U.S. history materials taught in Jefferson County would "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights." The proposal also says that instructional materials "should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." It directs the committee to inform the board of any "objectionable materials" it might encounter.

Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said his organization is keeping a close watch on what he called an attempt to implement an "ideologically motivated" review of the district's history curriculum.

"State-funded school [curricula] should promote academic integrity, not ideological agendas," Woodliff-Stanley said. "A committee that polices educational materials for insufficient devotion to patriotism or a lack of respect for authority runs the real danger of substituting propaganda for education."

In a statement posted to Facebook Tuesday, Julie Williams, one of the three conservative and controlling members of JeffCo's school board who helped design the proposal, wrote that she was "surprised" by the outrage it has provoked.

"To be accused of censorship? 'Seriously?' That is just ridiculous," Williams wrote. "I am advocating for just the opposite."

She goes on to argue that the existing APUSH curriculum "rejects the history that has been taught in the country for generations," and that it "has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing."

"Why is an emphasis on race, class, gender and ethnicity an issue?" said a teacher at Dakota Ridge High School, who asked not to be named for fear of professional reprisal. "Those are distinctly American topics. And the truth is, we have made some mistakes as a country in our history. Talking about those mistakes, or even disagreeing about our past, doesn't constitute 'bashing.' That's just pure ignorance and closed-mindedness. Williams and the rest of the conservative members of the board are political puppets."

Williams is not alone in her objections. Conservative groups around the country have claimed that the AP course framework contains an anti-American bias -- something the College Board, which created the framework, vehemently disputes.

"This, to me, is a tip of a big movement against government involvement in local educational jurisdictions on a lot of different levels," said Elaine Gantz Berman, a Democratic member of the Colorado State Board of Education. "It's powerful and it's scary."

Berman was critical of Williams and the other conservatives on the JeffCo school board, whom she said have taken "a piece of the Republican Party platform and are pushing it on our students."

"School boards are supposed to be nonpartisan," Berman told HuffPost. "This does not bode well for public education."

Last month, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution condemning the APUSH framework for reflecting "a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects."

In Texas, the State Board of Education may reject the College Board framework altogether, in which case students would learn from a history curriculum approved by the state.

Amid this week's demonstrations in Jefferson County, district Superintendent Dan McMinimee emailed parents on Tuesday to say he had taken steps to ensure student safety during the protests.

"I have personally met with a group of students from Evergreen and Lakewood high schools, listening to their legitimate concerns, answering their questions and providing them accurate information," McMinimee wrote, according to KMGH-TV, a Denver television station. "We want our students to know that we respect their viewpoints and have heard their anxiety over the issue. Our students deserve to be heard and need to know that they can have a role in shaping their education."

But Berman told HuffPost that some educators and parents are watching McMinimee closely at the moment to see if he is "really going to be a leader or just a puppet for the board."

McMinimee's tenure began earlier this year amid controversy when he was appointed by the JeffCo school board after being selected as the only finalist for the vacant position.

"He was appointed with very little public input," Berman said. "He came from Douglas County and wasn't even considered for the DougCo superintendent seat. And yet DougCo is smaller in size than JeffCo. So if he wasn't good enough for DougCo, then why was he selected for JeffCo?"

Meanwhile, the students in JeffCo are getting to partake in a real-world act of civil disobedience, carrying on their protest without a sense of just how long it may go on. The board is expected to take up the curriculum proposal in early October.

"The point of civil disobedience is to break an unjust law with the intention of bringing attention to it so that it may be rectified and made just," Maggie Ramseur told HuffPost. "Teaching students about that does not encourage them to become anarchists. It encourages them to speak up about policy and make the government serve the people, which is what our democratic republic was designed for."

"And that is something that I learned in Advanced Placement United States History," she added. "The uncensored version."

0. Students and Teachers OPPOSE CENSORSHIP

Several hundred students, community members, and educators packed a Jefferson County Board of Education meeting in suburban Denver on Thursday night, lambasting the conservative-majority board's proposal to censor the district’s history curriculum.

The proposal—to establish a committee that would review course materials to ensure they promote patriotism and avoid encouragement of "civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law"—was the catalyst for two weeks of student walk-outs and teacher 'sick-outs,' the latter of which closed several high schools on two days in September.

Since September 19, thousands of high-schoolers have taken to the streets with signs reading, "How will we learn from our mistakes if you don't teach us about them?" and "Keep your politics out of my education."

They were similarly vocal during a two-hour public comment period Thursday evening. The Denver Post reports:

Students were first to take to the microphone. Many decried board president Ken Witt's characterization of the students as "pawns" of teachers and their union after thousands walked out of class over the last couple of weeks to protest the proposed committee.

"We find it insulting that you say that we are pawns of anyone else," said Chatfield High senior Ashlyn Maher. "It is our education that is at stake."

Two students from Standley Lake High presented the board with boxes filled with 40,000 signatures gathered online from people opposed to the curriculum committee concept.

While board member Julie Williams, who has cited the Texas Board of Education as a model, refused to recall the proposal entirely, the protests appeared to have brought about a partial victory.

Early Thursday morning, in advance of the board meeting, superintendent Dan McMinimee sent a letter (pdf) to board members proposing a compromise: rather than establish a new committee, McMinimee suggested reorganizing existing curriculum review groups in the district to involve more student, teacher, and community voices.

That compromise proposal—stripped of the controversial section about patriotism and civil disorder—was successful Thursday night. But not everyone viewed it as a win.

According to the Associated Press:

As the board voted 3-2 Thursday night to expand the membership on two existing curriculum review committees to include students, parents and administrators, some in the audience yelled "resign" and "recall, recall."

The two women on the board who oppose the panel's conservative majority held their heads in their hands after losing a bid to delay the vote so they could have more time to study the plan.

Many students and parents remain dissatisfied with the board's actions. 

"Last night, Witt, Newkirk, and Williams bought some time," an anonymous blogger wrote at the highly critical JeffCo Board Watch site, referring to the three conservative school board members. "Time, they hope, for the furor to die down. Time, they hope, for the press to go away. Time, they hope, for you to forget the fact that they want the ability to indoctrinate our children."

JeffCo Board Watch is calling for community members to join and help build a network that would monitor the board and eventually launch a recall effort. 

JeffCo parents were planning additional protests on Friday. According to a local ABC News affiliate, "The parent organizing the protest said... it was against this 'board majority—who time and time again—refuses to listen to their constituents and disrespects students/parents/teachers. These board members should believe in the institution they were elected to represent—clearly they don't.'"

Indeed, many have observed that this fight is about much more than curriculum changes.

"The controversy over a history curriculum in Colorado is an argument over a very much bigger issue," public education expert Jeff Bryant wrote Thursday at the Education Opportunity Network blog. "It’s about how we’re treating our nation’s youngest citizens with a substandard form of education that emphasizes fiscal efficiency over learning opportunity and standardization over individual needs and interests. And it’s about how we treat students as learners, imposing education as something done to them rather than with them."

The truth is that this board was elected by outside special interest and money, and the effect of poor voter turnout in an off year election (our fault). This is not what the people wanted. The reality is that this is part of a nationwide effort by some very rich and powerful groups to take control of government and advance a profit agenda.

Pam Mazanec,Colorado's state Board of Education CO. 
State Board of Education Member: 'We Ended Slavery Voluntarily, At Great Sacrifice'

Say hello to businesswoman Pam Mazanec, a member (God help us) of Colorado's state Board of Education. Ms. Mazanec is unhappy about the AP U.S. History curriculum because it doesn't give America enough credit for being 'exceptional'.

IRT the people who create the framework and test: I've spoken with some history professors with very impressive credentials who told me this new framework doesn't surprise them and is aligned with the content of college level history courses that downplay our noble history and accentuate the negative view. As an example, I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn't our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional.

Yes indeed. The United States voluntarily ended slavery, at great sacrifice. Apparently, the Civil War never happened and even if it did? It was about other stuff...y'know: states rights and like that.  The education of Colorado's school children is in safe hands.

 conservative board member Julie Williams had called for a review of the Advanced Placement History’s framework, which she said focused on negative aspects of U.S. history while downplaying its merits.
The New History Wars- NYT OPED
By  James R. Grossman is executive director of the American Historical Association.

WASHINGTON — WITH the news dominated by stories of Americans dying at home and abroad, it might seem trivial to debate how history is taught in our schools. But if we want students to understand what is happening in Missouri or the Middle East, they need an unvarnished picture of our past and the skills to understand and interpret that picture. People don’t kill one another just for recreation. They have reasons. Those reasons are usually historical.  

Last month, the College Board released a revised “curriculum framework” to help high school teachers prepare students for the Advanced Placement test in United States history. Like the college courses the test is supposed to mirror, the A.P. course calls for a dialogue with the past — learning how to ask historical questions, interpret documents and reflect both appreciatively and critically on history. 

Navigating the tension between patriotic inspiration and historical thinking, between respectful veneration and critical engagement, is an especially difficult task, made even more complicated by a marked shift in the very composition of “we the people.” This fall, whites will constitute a minority of public-school students in the United States. “Our” past is now more diverse than we once thought, whether we like it or not.

It turns out that some Americans don’t like it. A member of the Texas State Board of Education has accused the College Board of “promoting among our students a disdain for American principles and a lack of knowledge of major American achievements,” like those of the founding fathers and of the generals who fought in the Civil War and World War II. The Republican National Committee says the framework offers “a radically revisionist view” that “emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history.” Stanley Kurtz, in National Review, called it “an attempt to hijack the teaching of U.S. history on behalf of a leftist political and ideological perspective.”

Disagreement is not a bad thing. But learning history means engaging with aspects of the past that are troubling, as well as those that are heroic.

There was a time, for example, when historians didn’t worry much about the slave trade and the emergence of an economy based on forced labor. Historians likened the plantation to a “school,” and emancipated people as children let out of class too soon. Only slightly more than a half-century ago, historians began to “revise” that narrative, examining sources previously ignored or unseen, informed by new ideas about race and human agency. More recently, scholars have revised 19th-century images of the “vanishing Indian,” a wildly inaccurate narrative that lives on in public monuments and popular lore, and has implications for public policy.

This essential process of reconsideration and re-evaluation takes place in all disciplines; imagine a diagnosis from a physician who does not read “revisionist” medical research.

Revisionism is necessary — and it generates controversy, especially when new scholarship finds its way into classrooms. But debate over what is taught in our schools is hardly new. Part of the logic underlying the creation of Catholic schools in 19th-century America had to do with a public-school curriculum that took a distinctly Protestant view of religious conflicts and cultural values. Since the early 20th century, battles have been waged over the relative place of “history” and “civics” in public education, a dichotomy that many professional historians don’t even accept.

In 1994, Lynne Cheney, a former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, pronounced the results of a congressionally mandated set of national standards in American history “grim and gloomy,” distorted by “political correctness,” and deficient for paying too much attention to the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyism and too little to Robert E. Lee and the Wright brothers.

The latest accusations arise from belief born of assumption rather than careful reading. The document is not a curriculum; in the words of David Coleman, president of the College Board, “it is just a framework, requiring teachers to populate it with content required by their local standards and priorities.” Those who assume that America’s founders are neglected seem not to have actually read the material. The Declaration of Independence stands front and center alongside the Constitution in the section devoted to “experiments with democratic ideas and republican forms of government,” including those of France, Haiti and Latin America. The framework makes clear that these “new ideas” included evangelical religion.

The framework even makes a bow to American exceptionalism — noting “the emergence of distinctly American cultural expressions” in the new republic and declaring that “the United States developed the world’s first modern mass democracy.” For good measure, one can find Washington’s farewell address — not to mention the Articles of Confederation, state constitutions, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Four Freedoms — in both the curriculum framework and the sample exam released by the College Board.

The critics are unhappy, perhaps, that a once comforting story has become, in the hands of scholars, more complex, unsettling, provocative and compelling.

And there’s the rub. Fewer and fewer college professors are teaching the United States history our grandparents learned — memorizing a litany of names, dates and facts — and this upsets some people. “College-level work” now requires attention to context, and change over time; includes greater use of primary sources; and reassesses traditional narratives. This is work that requires and builds empathy, an essential aspect of historical thinking.

The educators and historians who worked on the new history framework were right to emphasize historical thinking as an essential aspect of civic culture. Their efforts deserve a spirited debate, one that is always open to revision, rather than ill-informed assumptions or political partisanship.

letter from historical society

National Coalition Against Censorship

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