How to Improve AP History in JeffCo

Previously written on Sept. 30, 2014

Dear JeffCo School Board,

I know that you have your hands tied at the moment, dealing with wayward faculty and disobedient youth. I want to do my part and take on the responsibility of some of the important tasks that you poor, beleaguered officials have on your “to do list.” I have already started to compile a list of potential edits – or let’s call them “improvements” – to be made to future AP history textbooks. I just started today, so the list is short. With you as my inspiration, I plan to provide more improvements that will greatly benefit the impressionable minds of future Americans. Through our shared efforts, we can teach our youth that the U.S.A. is the greatest thing to happen to God's green Earth.

RECOMMENDED CURRICULUM IMPROVEMENTS

  • European settlers learned how to cultivate non-GMO, gluten-free products from indigenous people, and reciprocated such generosity by producing some of the most effective diseases and species depletion native populations had ever experienced.
  • The institution of slavery was widely celebrated as America’s first affirmative action success, providing housing, food, and jobs to hundreds of thousands of displaced African-Americans.  
  • When framing the Constitution, the Founding Fathers were prophetic in their reluctance to address the “slavery question.” Their foresight made certain that the joy of Civil War reenactments and harmonious race relations would be bestowed upon future generations in perpetuity.
  • Shay’s Rebellion was the United States of America’s first experience with dirty, rotten hippies.
  • In an attempt to show compassion toward native people, the American military provided Indians with blankets that once comforted the souls and warmed the backs of small pox victims.
  • After careful sociological experimentation in Ludlow, Colorado, John D. Rockefeller and the Colorado National Guard helped bring about the eight-hour workday and other important labor reforms. This project also served as the model for future, successful collaborations involving corporate philanthropy and military benevolence.
  • Out of concern for the plight of Japanese-Americans, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted the first national summer camp for the minority group. It was so popular, happy campers stayed beyond the summer for several years.
  • Joseph McCarthy's valiant efforts helped inspire future NSA programs and Facebook privacy policies.
  • The Manhattan Project worked tirelessly to introduce nuclear energy to Japan, which shaped the country’s future energy policy that never once jeopardized its people.
  • Agent Orange improved the manufacturing productivity of the Vietnamese people by providing them with extra – and very nimble – fingers to be used on the assembly line. 
  • In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set the precedent for America’s commitment to arming “moderate rebels” through his victorious Bay of Pigs campaign.
  • Rosa Parks bravely secured closer seating for all future Americans who wanted to sit closer to the air conditioning while enjoying public transit.
  • If not for the heroism of John Rambo, Forrest Gump, and R. Lee Ermey, the United States military would have not successfully fended off the Vietcong, Oliver Stone, and the Beat Generation.
  • Kent State taught all college-bound Americans the value of not missing your class lectures.
  • Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seal created the first all African-American nonprofit dedicated to preservation and proliferation of large African kitty cats.
  • All it took was the election of Ronald Reagan to end the Cold War, secure world peace, and end history on a good note. Everything else after this point is just pure conjecture at this point.

In all seriousness, if you think that the teaching of history demands a specific lens – whether it celebrates patriotism or downplays disobedience – you don’t want history; you want propaganda. Totalitarian regimes understood that controlling the past meant controlling the present and shaping the future.

I refuse to buy into any of your rhetorical spin. If you actually read the course curriculum guideline, you will see that the College Board is encouraging the teaching of history as it should be taught: the critical analysis of the ever-changing patterns found within human civilization, not the mindless memorization of dates, people, and events. I hated history because all I got was the latter when I was a student in the very same school district you govern. In middle school, I was forced to pretend that I was a historical figure – wearing era-appropriate garb and all – and mindlessly drone on about his accomplishments in front of my class. I retained nothing and despised the subject matter. If it weren't for some great history teachers later in life, I might have avoided the topic entirely during college and missed out on what is truly a lifelong passion of mine.

What is going on in Jefferson County is actually a microcosm of a larger takeover of school board governance by ideologically-narrow zealots like you. You are a part of the same narrow agenda that suggests “intelligent design” belongs alongside evolution in science textbooks and “American exceptionalism” is the most important lesson in the history of our glorious, infallible nation. (If you are looking for more suggestions on how to further botch education, may I recommend watching “The Revisionaries” on Netflix?)

I encourage you to listen to the concerns of your students. They are demonstrating one of the most vital and patriotic activities that history teaches us: dissent. If not, I hope the JeffCo voters relocate you to the dustbin of history where you belong.

Sincerely,

A Jefferson County Alum