WHEAT RIDGE – Steffi Rossi is a history teacher at Wheat Ridge High School worried about the future of teaching history.
"It's an offensive assumption that we would not include those elements of democracy in our curriculum," Rossi said.
Rossi is concerned because of a proposal put forth by Jefferson County School Board Member Julie Williams. Williams wants to create a curriculum review committee of nine people selected by the board majority. They would go around the district to make sure Advanced Placement U.S. History is taught correctly.
The proposal reads: "The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials."
Williams says this is necessary after all the changes to academic standards under the Common Core movement.
"When there is enough discussion around the country, it warrants looking into," Williams said.
The second part of the proposal reads in part, "Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."
"I don't think we should encourage kids to be little rebels," Williams said. "We should encourage kids to be good citizens."
That section, in particular, Rossi finds insulting.
"It's this assumption that we're leading kids astray that I was offended by as a teacher that loves America's story," Rossi said.
She says civil disorder and dissent is a major part of American history.
"I started to think about who in history has challenged the law. Well, the authors of the Declaration of Independence," Rossi said. "Paul Revere, Thomas Payne, Henry David Thoreau. And, they were doing so for the greater good that reflected the democracy that everybody aspired to have."
Williams says she never meant to create offense.
Betsy Bellissimo is a parent of three children within the Jeffco School District.
"The changes that were discussed in this proposal really frightened me," Bellissimo said.
She worries that this would tell teachers to restrict students from critical thinking.
"Those kinds of questions really shake me to the core cause it reminds me of things like Nazi, Germany or Russia," Bellissimo said.
She also worries about the actual function of the proposed committee and its reports. Plus, she says the district already has a committee that reviews textbooks and curriculum.
"Teachers aren't sure what they can teach without receiving any sort of repercussion on an evaluation," Bellissimo said.
Williams says the committee would only focus on curriculum and materials and have no bearing on teacher's evaluation.
"I don't think there's any harm," Williams said. "Only good can come out of that."
Williams says she just wants to make sure students get an objective view.
"I want to bring history back to be taught accurately without opinion," Williams said.
Rossi says she still feels insulted and invites Williams to come Wheat Ridge High School to see what really goes on in the classroom.
"I have to present all sides of the issue. That's my ethical responsibility," Rossi said. "As a board member, you need to check your biases as well and make sure they are not coloring your decision to the point where you could be doing a greater damage."
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