American History X, Y, and Z

The Rude Pundit was taught American history in his sophomore year of high school in south Louisiana by a crisply-dressed, porn-stache sporting Vietnam vet who drank coffee constantly, smoked every chance he got, and never, ever blinked. The first day of class, he took a dollar bill out of his pressed shirt's pocket and held it up. "This is what the history of the United States is about," he said. And while he taught what the book and the curriculum demanded, he never let us forget that the events that shaped the nation had less to do with a valiant march for "freedom" as a vague concept and more to do with the freedom to make money and all that followed.

When we got to a war, we skipped the battles, only studying what caused the war and what happened after it ended. That was all that mattered, Mr. Landry said: "In the battles, some people killed other people. That's all." It wasn't a wildly radical class by any stretch. It was tightly-controlled, sometimes tedious and boring, like most high school classes, but we ended up with an appreciation for how much fucking work it took to get us here. But we had no illusions that the work was done just by noble explorers and liberty-loving prophets, but that it was done by scoundrels and bastards, slave owners and abusive industrialists. Just as much, we learned that leaps forward happened only because some people were willing to put their asses on the line to make them happen.

In Jefferson County, Colorado, students walked out of class Monday at Evergreen High School to protest the conservative school board's proposed perversion of the advanced placement American history curriculum. It was an act of civil disobedience because the board is considering a proposal that would ensure that students learn from materials that "'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.'" You know, history. Last Friday, two schools had to close after teachers staged a sick-out to protest the proposed changes, as well as other problems.

Of course, Fox "news" titled its online article about the walkout "Hundreds of Colorado students protest history curriculum changes that would promote patriotism" to make it sound like there's a bunch of America-hating teenagers who would rather learn about the Black Panthers than the signers of the Declaration of Independence. (Difference? The signers liked whores and alcohol a whole lot more than the Black Panthers did.)

The protests are growing, though. Yesterday, they had spread to more schools. Today, even more students walked out of schools in the Denver suburbs. That's because, more than the conservative toads on the school board, the students understand history and that dissent is one of the most patriotic things you can do.

Now, you might read, say, board member Julie Williams press release in response to the protests, where she echoes every right wing nutzoid blog's talking points: "Let me give you some examples of who is omitted: Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin with not even a mention of Martin Luther King, Jr. who was on the forefront of the civil rights movement. It ignores lessons on the Boston Tea Party, Lexington, Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the list continues…" And you might think, "Wow, that sounds pretty horrible. Students should learn those things."

Except here's the deal: This is AP History. It ain't beginner stuff. Besides, who is going to leave out Benjamin Franklin and MLK when teaching history? As the designers of the curriculum said in an August letter, "Based on feedback from other AP teachers outside the Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee, we did not think it necessary to specifically identify Martin Luther King, Jr., among the post-war 'civil rights activists' mentioned in the framework. Any United States History course would of course include King as well as other major figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Dwight Eisenhower." In other words, don't be fucking idiots. It's a "framework." And it gives you the groups, ideas, and people you might not otherwise cover. Besides, "[t]hese and many other figures of U.S. history did not appear in the previous AP framework, either, yet teachers have always understood the need to teach them."

Yeah, conservative fuckheads, it's not a radical shift. You just have an outrage machine that needs to be constantly pumped with bullshit. Except this time you got called on it by the very students and teachers you are affecting.

On Friday, the group JeffCo Students Defending History are calling on an awesome protest to take place: "On Friday, September 26th, we invite all Jeffco students and teachers to go to school dressed as, representing a historical figure or movement that created 'civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law...' and by doing so made our country and world a better place."

If it happens, someone send the Rude Pundit pictures. It's gonna be beautiful and more patriotic than a thousand teabaggers proclaiming they know history.