JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Students in Jefferson County protested on the streets again Thursday. They’re upset about a school board proposal that could impact what is taught in AP U.S. History.
But a week after the protests began, many are still unclear about why the board proposes a review of the curriculum.
FOX31 Denver’s Kent Erdahl spoke with Julie Williams Thursday night, the board member who is at the center of this controversy. The goal was to find out what she has in mind and what her reaction is to the protests which have been taking place for a week now.
So, after five straight days of student walk-outs that have gained attention nationwide … the woman at the center of it all, Jeffco board member Julie Williams says she wants to set the record straight about her plans for AP U.S. History.
“I`m not suggesting altering, omitting or censoring anything. I`m just asking for a committee to look at it,” she says. “I would ask, what is the fear at looking at this?”
Many say the fear comes from Williams` original criteria for her proposed committee which states … “Materials should present positive aspects of the United States,” “Promote patriotism” and “should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
“Basically, what I am asking for is for history to be taught complete, without bias. So the good, the bad, the ugly without bias,” Williams says.
Kent Erdahl asked her, “Isn`t discouraging things like civil disobedience bias?” Williams answer, “I`m not talking about changing the history to not teach that. I`m saying we shouldn`t be encouraging our kids to disobey the law and that`s what`s happening right now. Our kids are being encouraged to walk out of the schools.”
During the walk-outs this week Williams tried to clarify her concerns about the new AP U.S. History curriculum saying it “Rejects the history that has been taught in the country for generations. Let me give you some examples of who is omitted: Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin with not even a mention of Martin Luther King Jr. It ignores lessons on the Boston Tea Party, Lexington, Jefferson`s First Inaugural Address and Lincoln`s Gettysburg Address.”
She was asked if she reviewed the framework of the curriculum. “I have briefly looked at parts of it but I`m not an expert and that`s why I would like to have this committee.”
The AP U.S. history framework does not specifically mention many of the names, but a CU History Professor who helped craft it says that`s because the framework is just an overview. “We never intended to or tried to stipulate individual cases, or events or people whom the teachers are supposed to teach about,” College Board AP Redesign Commission member Fred Anderson says. “[We assume] that they would be able to do that for themselves.”
FOX31 turned, instead, to the textbooks. We examined the ten AP U.S. History textbooks approved for use in Jefferson County school. All of the names and events Williams claims are omitted are found in every single one. They most often appear on multiple pages.
“You can’t leave it out,” Anderson said. “Nobody leaves it out, and to say that this framework somehow requires people to leave things out or stress negative aspects of American history … I just don’t see that as being something that’s borne out or true.”
Williams said the textbooks don’t guarantee anything.
“Even if they are in the textbooks it doesn’t mean the teachers teach it,” Williams said. “And this isn’t about teachers. This really goes back to the union bosses being upset about not having control over the process of our budget and the teachers pay.”
Williams says she’s not trying to eliminate AP U.S. History, she just wants to see what a committee of citizens has to say about both the framework and the curriculum.
If that review recommends changes to the AP course, Anderson says he believes the district should simply abandon AP U.S. History completely.
“We really weren’t trying to mess with anything about the way school boards structure requirements because these are always elective courses,” Anderson said. “They are not a substitute for the standard high school curriculum.”
It’s unclear when the Jeffco Board of Education might vote on the curriculum review committee. It could come as soon as next Thursday.