Unsurprisingly, special-interest political conflicts are again flaring up in regard to government schools, this time in Jefferson County, Colorado (where I live). Since September 19, some teachers have staged “sick-outs." These involve teachers calling in “sick” the day before they are supposed to teach, but especially late in the day, so as to reduce the possibility that they could be replaced in time—resulting in the closure of several schools. And students at numerous schools have staged walkouts during school hours to protest the policies and proposals of the conservative-majority school board.
A main issue at stake is the negotiation of terms between the school board and the teacher’s union, the Jefferson County Education Association. Among other things, teachers are “upset about an evaluation-based system for awarding raises,” the Denver Post reports. Part of the context is that the board of another Colorado county, Douglas County, implemented a merit-based pay system last year, and teachers in Jefferson County feared their board was following the “Douglas County playbook” in this matter and others.
Because the teachers’ union could not very well make a political campaign out of the slogan “Incompetent teachers should make the same as competent ones,” its leaders seized on another wedge issue: the teaching of history. Teachers and the students supporting them claimed that the board was trying to “censor” or “whitewash” the teaching of American history, particularly as taught through the Advanced Placement U.S. History course (APUSH).
The debate over the APUSH course is taking place across the nation, not just in Jefferson County. In August, the Republican National Committee criticized the APUSH course, claiming that it “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.” On September 15, the Texas Board of Education declared that students in that state would “learn only state-mandated curriculum—not be taught to the national [APUSH] test,” the Associated Press reported.
On September 18, one of the conservative board members in Jefferson County proposed (among other things) that a board-appointed committee review the APUSH course to assure that materials promote “respect for authority,” . . .