Ignoring the past hurts students in the future
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - George Santayana
The school board in Jefferson County, a district in the suburbs of Denver, recently proposed a new history curriculum that would promote patriotism and free enterprise, while censoring material that condones "civil disorder, social strife or disregard for the law".
Although the conservative-majority school board was elected just last year, the new members have been causing some friction for several months now. Before this more recent controversy, there was discord over teacher pay and the possibility of eliminating free full-day kindergarten classes.
The board's proposal yielded protests from students and parents, and a strike from the local teacher's union, which forced two high schools to remain closed last Friday.
The initiative was brought forth by Julie Williams, who is part of the 3-2 majority on the board. Williams says she wants history to be taught accurately without opinion, allowing students to get an objective view. However, I do not see any objectivity in erasing a country's history in order to mold it in a way that is favorable to a particular political affiliation.
More importantly, there is no reason we should be obligated to exculpate America's history of greed and exploitation. Much of the civil disorder and protests Williams is attempting to whitewash are rightfully justified. The false presumption that by omitting some of the most important elements of our history we will create better citizens is insulting.
Williams believes that exposing students to material that encourages civil disorder will influence them to become rebellious. I, on the other hand, think that censoring it will only allow history to repeat itself. In order to avoid making the same mistakes, we should learn about every single instance in which the common people have taken corruption by its horns. If we do not teach students about their inherent power to be leaders and activists, we are letting politics win.
Members of the board also claimed that the students' engagement in the protests last week was solely because their teachers had influenced them. Bethany Keupp, a senior at Standley Lake High School, said this attitude was offensive to her and her classmates.
"We have the resources to find out the information, and it's insulting that they would think that teenagers don't have an interest in their education," Keupp told MSNBC.
The student-led rally that took place last Tuesday welcomed hundreds of students from schools all throughout the district.
The backlash was enough for the proposal to finally be crossed off Williams' right-wing agenda some days later. Instead, the board agreed that it would now include students, teachers and appointed community members in future curriculum-review committees.
There is no better pivotal time than now for our youth to continue their role as activists and to fight for the pursuit of justice, even if it means disrupting the social order. As we saw, yet again, in Jefferson County, sometimes this is the kind of effort that must be made in order for us to receive our most important and basic rights, like our education.