JeffCo board backs away from proposed conservative AP history overhaul

Last fall, teachers rebelled and hundreds of students and parents staged protests when Jefferson County conservative school board Julie Williams announced a plan to rework the district’s Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum to include more god, rainbows and roses and less mass-murder, slavery and protest. She said the curriculum wasn’t patriotic enough. Her proposal made national news and became a source of ridicule across the internet.

Now the president of the board, Ken Witt, says that the controversial idea has been scrapped, according to a Thursday CBS 4 report. He said the board isn’t rewriting the curriculum but that, instead, it will re-make existing review committees to include students and parents.

#JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory Twitter feed Thursday 2:29 pm
#JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory Twitter feed Thursday 2:29 pm. Click to enlarge.

The news from Jefferson County comes as lawmakers in Oklahoma draw similar backlash for seeking to ban AP History courses there, which they said downplayed “American Exceptionalism.” The law introduced by state Rep. Dan Fisher, included new curriculum that would have required advanced U.S. history students to study the Ten Commandments, church sermons and speeches by Ronald Reagan.

After his bill made national news this week, Fisher, a member of the Christian “Black Robe Regiment,” said he would withdraw the bill and fix it, because he believed it had been misunderstood. “We’re very supportive of the AP program,” he told local reporters.

The Black Robe Regiment, according to its website, is a “resource and networking entity where church leaders and laypeople can network and educate themselves as to our biblical responsibility to stand up for our Lord and Savior and to protect the freedoms and liberties granted to a moral people in the divinely inspired US Constitution.”

Jefferson County, which stretches into the Rocky Mountain foothills just west of Denver, has been a main front this year in a larger ideological battle over education policy in the state. The county’s new conservative-majority school board has made news at a regular clip for green-lighting policies that are shaking up traditional teacher contracts and that seem to be leaning toward corporate-style administrative restructuring as well as more privatization of services, charter schools and school choice.

The national AP History program, run by the private-sector College Board with courses designed by teachers and professors, has come under fire around the country from conservatives who portray it as serving up an overarching liberal view of the country’s history that downplays the role of Christianity and plays up conflict and rebellion. They believe the courses paint a picture of a United States as less special or “exceptional” among other countries of the world, past and present.