The organization that oversees the Advanced Placement curriculum, whose history course is being defended by massive, ongoing student protests in a Denver suburb, has now said that it backs those protests.
"The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member’s request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course," said a statement from the College Board released on Friday.
"These students recognize that the social order can -- and sometimes must -- be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history -- from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course," the statement continued.
Protests in Jefferson County, the state's second-largest school district, began a week ago Friday. By this Thursday, there were nearly 1,000 students marching in protest of the county school board's call for an Advanced Placement curriculum on U.S. history that promotes "respect for authority" and discourages "civil disorder, social strife or disregard for the law."
The proposal in question would create a school board committee tasked with ensuring that all U.S. history materials taught in Jefferson County "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights." The proposal also says that instructional materials "should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." The committee would be directed to inform the school board of any "objectionable materials" it might encounter.
Julie Williams, one of three conservative members who control the county school board and who helped design the proposal, said on Friday that she's "not saying let's not teach history accurately," but what she is saying is "let's not encourage our children to disobey the law." When Denver's KUSA-TV asked Williams for examples of moments in history that might be misrepresented in the AP course and could lead to the negative outcomes she fears, Williams couldn't cite a single example.
"I'm not familiar enough with everything that is in AP history to make that judgment," she said.
In a statement posted to Facebook this week, Williams said she was "surprised" by the outrage her proposal has provoked and stood by her mission, arguing that the existing AP curriculum "rejects the history that has been taught in the country for generations" and that it "has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing."
Dakota Ridge High School senior Maggie Ramseur, who is involved in the protests, told HuffPost that the students fear that if the school board succeeds at changing the AP curriculum, a "dangerous" precedent would be set. "The policies they are suggesting are ridden with political agendas," Ramseur said, "something that belongs in our curriculum about as much as religious agendas do."
The school board is expected to take up the curriculum proposal in early October.
"The point of civil disobedience is to break an unjust law with the intention of bringing attention to it so that it may be rectified and made just," Ramseur said. "Teaching students about that does not encourage them to become anarchists. It encourages them to speak up about policy and make the government serve the people, which is what our democratic republic was designed for."
"And that is something that I learned in Advanced Placement United States History," she added. "The uncensored version."
Read the College Board's full statement below:
The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member’s request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course. The board member claims that some historical content in the course “encouraged or condoned civil disorder, social strife, or disregard for the law.”
These students recognize that the social order can -- and sometimes must -- be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history -- from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course.
The College Board will always listen to principled concerns based on evidence -- and in fact has announced a public-review process for the AP U.S. History course framework. But in light of current events, an important policy reminder is in order:
College faculty and AP teachers collaborate to develop, deliver, and evaluate AP courses and exams. Their partnership ensures that these courses align with the content and rigor of college-level learning, while still providing teachers with the flexibility to examine topics of local interest in greater depth.
To offer a course labeled “AP” or “Advanced Placement,” a school must agree to meet the expectations set for such courses by the more than 3,300 colleges and universities across the globe that use AP Exam scores for credit, placement, or consideration in the admission process.
As vital context for the courageous voices of the students in Colorado, the AP community, our member institutions and the American people can rest assured: If a school or district censors essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the “AP” designation.