Indoctrination ban shot down by Douglas County school board

It was the final farewell for three members of the Douglas County Board of Education. One of their last decisions: rejecting a call to punish teachers who don’t provide enough competing viewpoints on politically charged topics.

Board member Jim Geddes sponsored the resolution, innocuously titled “Balanced Instruction and Critical Thinking,” which touched on an issue he’s pushed in the past: making sure students hear conservative viewpoints.

Geddes’ latest resolution for DougCo came after he saw a student project at a high school social studies fair. One student focused on the Japanese who died when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Geddes said the student explained that the United States had committed a serious war crime against the Japanese, analogous to the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

The student hadn’t heard the other side of the story, said Geddes, who proceeded to lecture the student about the deaths at Okinawa: 15,000 Marines, 150,000 civilian casualties, and 130,000 Japanese military casualties. The total number of U.S. casualties, Geddes said, from all battles in the Pacific in the effort to defeat the Japanese, approached 800,000. Geddes said the number of deaths from the bombs were far fewer than that, about 100,000 military and civilians each, and that the Japanese emperor could have prevented the second bomb at Nagasaki had he surrendered.

“I tried to be as objective as I could and give him a little history lesson,” Geddes said, in recounting the story. He found out later that the teacher who reviewed the project had a history of not asking students to look at the other side.

Geddes shared another incident, where a parent had complained that her daughter was being indoctrinated by a teacher at one of the district high schools who was championing the election of Democrat Hillary Clinton as president.

Geddes also showed a slideshow explaining white privilege that was used in a sixth-grade class, arguing the other side, presumably white persecution, had not been presented.

While most teachers “would never do this kind of thing,” Geddes said, these examples are egregious and stymie quality education. “This kind of indoctrinating behavior” is an insult to the teaching of critical thinking skills, he said.

Geddes’ resolution would direct teachers to provide a balanced approach to controversial topics, one that would “avoid teaching students to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.” Such topics would include religious, ethnic, racial, economic, political and philosophical subjects, “for which a reasonable teacher will anticipate may lead to concern in the school community should a balanced discussion/study not occur.”

Teachers who repeatedly violate the policy wouldn’t be punished until properly notified and counseled on initial violations, Geddes explained.

But his fellow school board members weren’t having any of it.

Board Vice President Doug Benevento wasn’t present but submitted a statement that got buy-in from everyone on the board except Geddes. The district has processes in place to deal with complaints, Benevento’s statement said.

“I fundamentally disagree” that this issue should be legislated by the board, especially with a resolution with a “vague” standard that would subject teachers to discipline, including being fired, “if they don’t hit the mark.”

Benevento also said such a policy would suppress discussion of controversial subjects, or require teachers to figure out just how many different points of view should be included.

Community members applauded the board’s review of the issue, and that included at least two incoming board members. David Ray said he didn’t think he would often agree with Benevento in the future, but he did in this case. He indicated the board had fairly and appropriately reviewed the resolution and the issue. But he also complained that teachers had been excluded from the discussion.

The resolution appears to be “a poor solution in search of a problem,” according to Parker teacher Brian White. He pointed to a 2014 article in Colorado Peak Politics in which Geddes said a similar resolution he pushed as a University of Colorado regent was part of an effort to advance the conservative agenda.

“Geddes seems to have the same idea in mind for Douglas County,” White said.

Will teachers now be required to teach creationism along with evolution, or that the earth was created only 6,000 years ago? White asked.

“Make no mistake, this is an attack on academic freedom…On November 3, this community let it be known it was sick and tired of the board and superintendent bringing its politics into the Douglas County classrooms,” White added.

New board member Anne-Marie Lemieux pointed out that requiring a balanced approach is not always appropriate. Concerning some topics, the other perspectives could be illegal. But she also complimented the board for its robust discussion. “That shows we’re already taking a step in the right direction.”

The resolution never got to a vote. It failed when no other board members would second it for that purpose. Geddes, a surgeon, wasn’t around for the final decision. He left midway through the discussion to handle medical duties.

“We seem to have struck a nerve of agreement tonight,” quipped Board President Kevin Larsen.

Photo credit: Blondinrikard Fröberg, Creative Commons, Flickr

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


  1. It’s good that Geddes won’t get any more chances to screw with education, at least not for a little while. He clearly doesn’t believe in REALITY, he’s a believer in his own opinion and that’s all. And if kids don’t go along with him, then they have to be indoctrinated into being just as shallow and pig headed as he is. Best thing Jefferson county has done for itself for a while was to get rid of him.

    Righties don’t care abuot reality or truth, they care about their own beliefs, and they are FAR more important that reality. This is what the whole “everyone’s opinion is just as valid as everyone else’s opinion” nonsense has been about for the last 40 years. It doesn’t matter to them that some of these opinions are complete drivel and nonsense, they are ALL valid. This is how they got THEIR viewpoints out there, regarldess of how FOOLISH and unAmerican those viewpoints are.

    This is why Trump is getting such a free run with his racist crap. They have made it SO easy to say hateful crap because everyone’s opinion is just as valid as the next one and NOT get called on it. They did this on purpose, because back in the 70’s it was KNOWN that conservative “ideas” are crap, don’t move a society anywhere, and don’t provide for human needs at all and so were marginalized LIKE THEY SHOULD BE. Reagan came along, and suddenly, experts knew NOTHING more than the rest of us in spite of their decades of learning and understanding. People who had NO clue how to deal with things suddenly became heads of departments, and decisions were and are being made by those with NO idea at all.

    And so here we are, with NO experts who know a thing, and every congressperson knows things that NO intelligence person has signed off on, NO scientist backs up, and common sense says is nonsense. But we get to be run by these fools. Ted Cruz comes to mind in a HUGE way. And how else do you explain Trump and his ascendancy? We’ve let the insane among us convice us that their lunatic ramblings are just as valid as those who KNOW what they are talking about.

    This isn’t a country, anymore, it’s an asylum, to paraphrase Hot Lips Houlihan.

  2. This article is downright scary.

    It’s glaringly apparent that modern so called “Liberals”… are nothing more than arrogant LEFTIST FASCISTS.

    Geddes crime? Insisting that the students not be INDOCTRINATED by one point of view. A point of view only shared by 30% of the American population (Only 30% of Americans are registered Democrats).

    The rest of the population (70%), has chosen SANITY AND COMMON SENSE which incorporates weird stuff like FACTS, and ACTUAL Liberty / Libertarianism.

    While most sane Americans agree that teaching should fairly incorporate and represent many common points of view… ONLY THE LEFT insists that ONLY THEIR points of view should be taught- and nobody else’s.

    The effort to vilify Mr. Geddes in this article is painfully obvious. When in fact he was ONE MAN pushing for fairness and unbiased teaching, against the entire Leftist Public School establishment.

    SOMEHOW… the article manages to vilify Geddes as “the oppressor”….. and I would expect no less from the “professional victims” of the radical Left. Always claiming “victimhood”… when in fact they are most commonly the oppressor.

    For those who still believe in freedom of speech, and equally representing popular and common points of view in education… Mr. Geddes did nothing wrong. And yet he was vilified and attacked, as if he had recommended the Left’s point of view be banned.

    What WAS banned? Mr. Geddes, and the point of view of 70% of American’s.

    Doesn’t sound very “Liberal” to me.

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