http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/colorado-students-prep-more-protests-ap-history

AP US History is a very difficult course.  I know, because I taught it for quite a while. The students who took the courses in my classroom were, for the most part, the cream of the crop.  They were interested in both the historical facts, and their implications.  And they wanted to know the truth.  Fact is, when I was learning history, I did too.

I’m not sure at this point whether the disruptions to the educational process are the best way for the students to get their message across.  This is school, and people are going to look at it as students attempting to find a way to just get out of it.  Schools have closed as a result, and students are planning to stay away on “count day”, when enrollment and attendance figures are taken to calculate financial allocations.  On the other hand, civil disobedience that is respectful of boundaries and other viewpoints, is certainly an effective means of getting your message across.

I’m opposed to sanitizing history, or leaving things out deliberately, for the sake of “patriotism” or political correctness, and basically, that’s what’s going on in this incident.  There are things in our past history that should be open to question.  Treatment of Native Americans over the course of our entire history is absolutely open for discussion.  So is the use of the atom bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I would add to that other strategic bombing in World War II, particularly Dresden and Wurzburg, Germany.  The people in those cities had no control over their government, and could not affect war policy.  It was late in the war, and the outcome was a foregone conclusion.  What’s wrong with high school students having that discussion?  How will they ever be able to avoid repeating mistakes, if they’re not allowed to study all of history, not just the parts that make our ancestors look good?

From the college board, which develops the curriculum guides for AP courses:

“Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history – from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course.”

There is no doubt that a particular spin can be put on the curriculum objectives of a history class.  But there’s a big difference between “spinning” interpretations of historical events, and allowing students to draw their own conclusions after hearing the facts.  I taught AP History within the context of a Christian high school which integrated a Biblical worldview into the curriculum, and we had no problem dealing with the content.  My biggest concern regarding the public education system is an overall lack of control and order of student behavior, and a lack of sold objectives in the curriculum which has “dumbed down” the student population, and taken away their ability to think critically and evaluate the facts.  It seems that this is exactly what the Jefferson County school board is attempting to do.  If those board members who think this is the right thing to do were educated in the schools they now governed, they should be ashamed of the outcome.

The American Revolution would never have occurred had it not been for the ability of those involved to raise an army, select a governing body called “Congress,” and march at Lexington and Concord.  Under British law, which was the law of the land at the time, that was treason.  The civil rights movement would never have happened if Dr. Martin Luther King had followed the existing racial rules and society’s expectations, and “stayed in their place.”  And unless American leadership has been perfect, and we know that it hasn’t, its mistakes and misjudgments should be discussed in order to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.  Suppressing the facts never leads to the desired result, anyway, and these are elected officials who should know that.

I can recall several excellent discussions (and some debates and arguments) in my history class around the topic of the Bible’s teachings on the sanctity of human life, and the justification for dropping an atom bomb on two large Japanese cities, for the purpose of breaking their will and ending the war.  We also had some great discussions about how people could be as familiar with the Bible as so many Americans were in the nineteenth century, and yet came to the conclusions that Native Americans were subhuman savages, and worthy of death and destruction of their culture.  I don’t think the discussion, or the criticism of the act itself, undermined anyone’s patriotism or love for their own country, on the contrary, several of them made note of the fact that if we can’t learn from our past mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them.  Some of them observed that perhaps the fact that so few Native Americans profess faith in Jesus may have to do with the treatment that many of their ancestors, and many of them, have endured.  I’d say they got it.

Conservatives have accused liberals of using the public education system to advance their own agenda.  This smacks of hypocrisy, as it is clearly attempt to advance a conservative agenda and use the public schools to do so.  Don’t be afraid of the truth, because “it will set you free.”  This can all be taught without strong-arming students to accept a “conservative” perspective and hiding the facts that don’t support it.

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

2 responses

  1. […] I’m not sure at this point whether the disruptions to the educational process are the best way for the students to get their message across. Continue reading → […]

  2. I taught American History at South Carolina State for two years, 1970-72, and it is indeed a challenge to do justice to the subject in view of the effort of others to make use of it for their own purposes. Even our Baptist History is subject to be misinterpreted in order to satisfy someone’s anxiety about bringing the past in line with present beliefs. Just consider how the demand for grape juice has so under mined the truth that wine was actually used. It has been my experience to find people in churches who remember the person appointed so many years ago to secure the wine. One lady the other day told how the ladies of the church back in the early 40s prepared the unleavened bread for the communion service. And then there is the present day effort of the Traditionalists to cut out any real Calvinism (better and more biblical term is Sovereign Grace) from the history of Southern Baptists. They point to Sandy Creek Association as proof. Since most of the records have been destroyed (in one case, they were taken by a pastor. In another, they were burned by the deacons who were supposedly trying to prevent any future effort by African Americans from coming back and saying they had been members of the church and demanding membership once more) few know that the Separate Baptists were just as much Sovereign Grace believers as any of the other Protestants. Consider the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church of Apex, NC (now a member of Yates Assn.). It was organized in 1814 and had messengers present at the 1816 meeting of Sandy Creek, when Luther Rice, the Father of Missions among Southern Baptists came to enlist the Separate Baptists (by then the United Baptists) in the great missionary effort. The articles of faith of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church state that Christ died for the church – not a word is said about Him dying for everyone without exception. And from this church in the next 20-30 years will come the first missionary of the Southern Baptist Convention to China, Matthew T. Yates. He serves from the 1840s-18803. Around 2006 a request came from China, asking if the Church wanted to have a representative at a memorial service there? Imagine them still remembering after more than a 130 years and that in a nation that is now Communist. What every one needs to know is that paradoxes, seeming opposites, can have a very salutary effect. They are called therapeutic paradoxes. Our problem is that we hardly know the depths of the theology of God presented to us in the words of Holy Scripture. Consequently, we are ill-equipped for the task at hand, that of winning the whole earth as well as quadrillions of planets for the next 1000 generations (I Chron.16:15) (or 20,000-900,000 years, depending on how one calculates the time span of a generation) so that the angels can gather the elect from one end of THE heaven to the other (Mt.24:31) and have enough redeemed in Heaven so God’s word is fulfilled that says no one can number them (Rev.7:9).