The pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong are getting a lot of media attention, mostly because huge crowds of people in a downtown area make good TV pictures (although the networks, to their shame, virtually ignored the 300,000+ Americans who filled Manhattan for the People’s Climate March two weeks ago — they should have held the march in Tahrir Square to ensure wall-to-wall coverage).
But there’s a protest underway in Colorado that hasn’t gotten enough attention. High schoolers there are protesting modifications to the AP History curriculum by right-wingers to promote patriotism, while downplaying civil disobedience and social strife. The kids, who recognize that history has only been changed by people who stood up for what’s right — including the colonials who defied King George III to fight the American revolution! — and that colleges and the rest of the real world will not look kindly on them as products of schools that bend history for political purposes.
Josiah Hesse of Vice talked to some of the protesting students:
“We’re not going to listen to empty promises and be influenced as easily as they think teenagers are,” said Scott Romano, a junior at Chatfield High School who helped organize Wednesday’s protest through Facebook. Romano told me he’s concerned about how these changes will affect future academic prospects for Jefferson County students.
“We don’t want national colleges to look at Jefferson County, Colorado, and say, ‘Oh, you passed the AP exam in Jefferson County? Well, that doesn’t mean the same thing as passing the AP exam in other districts,'” he added.
He’s got a point. As Tony Robinson, chair of the University of Colorado at Denver’s political science department, put it, the new curriculum is destructive and will lead to “historical illiteracy” for students.
“They’ll be ignorant to the facts, but they’ll also be ignorant to civic consciousness,” Robinson told me. “There are a good deal of studies that show this kind of ‘patriotism education’ is associated with xenophobia, jingoism, and authoritarian personalities. And when those youth actually confront the reality of their country’s history, there’s a shocking moment of disillusionment and radicalization.”