Colorado's Little Rebels: Thoreau and Zinn For Everyone
Proving "no one calls bullshit like kids call bullshit" - and using social media to bolster the weighty argument that, "The cornerstone of any democracy is the free expression of dissenting opinion and the agitation of stale ideology" - Colorado high school students still aren't buying a right-wing move to censor their AP history classes so that America comes out all clean and shiny. With over a thousand students at six high schools staging walk-outs this week, and their teachers staging sick-outs, kids have now expanded the protests with a host of new actions insisting on the right to "know what happened in our past."
What they're fighting is a proposal by new conservative school board members in Jefferson County that history materials "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." No more tawdry stories of slavery, genocide, racism, ill-gotten wars, "American-bashing," or other "negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters.” Chief fearmongerer Julie Williams explains they sure don't want to be creating "little rebels," adding, "We shouldn’t be encouraging our kids to think that America is a bad place," and never mind that, in truth, it often has been. (The Borowitz Report takes the idea further, suggesting banning unpatriotic students just like unpatriotic ideas, events and books in order to create "student-free schools," thus solving the problem of unruly kids who insist on thinking for themselves.)
Despite patronizing calls from the school superintendent for kids to go back to class and an editorial that managed to defend their right to learn about, but not practise, civil disobedience - “OK, students, you’ve made your point. Now you should return to your schools" - the kids keep hatching new plans, many of them online. They have a Tumblr for updates, a Twitter hashtag offering mock bogus right-wing history lessons, and a JeffCo Students Defending History! Facebook page boasting fiery quotes from Howard Zinn and Frederick Douglass. They invited students to show up on Friday dressed as their favorite historical characters who practised the same sort of "civil disorder" - Mother Jones and Bella Abzug put in appearances - now being banished from the classroom. And wisely, they are now proposing that students skip school Oct.1, or Count Day, when districts count the numbers in class that determine per-pupil state funding.
Today, the kids got some eloquent support from the national College Board, which said, in effect, that history does and must include the good, bad and tumultuous. "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."
Colorado's own Mother Jones