Dear Jefferson County School Board,
I write to you as a concerned and disappointed graduate of Jefferson County.
I received my entire pre-K through high school education in JeffCo schools, and have been profoundly shaped by the critical thinking and reasoning skills I learned in conjunction with the academic curriculum.
In particular, several courses at my alma mater, Arvada West High School, taught me skills that I still use today. I took AP English in both 11th and 12th grade, where I learned to read and write critically – to look for meaning, to ask questions, to discover biases – rather than just skim the words on the page. I learned to love language. I learned the value of muscular prose. I grew as a student and a writer.
Similarly, AP US History was a foundational course for my future education and professional success. Ms. Sally Hobler’s class enriched my understanding of my country, but also prepared me for the rigor of college coursework. I became a more intellectually curious student as a result of that class, and used what I learned to succeed in my American History classes in college.
After graduating from Arvada West, I became the first person in my family to attend college. I graduated Boston University magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in US History – a testament to the interest in history that first started four years prior in a JeffCo classroom. In my time at BU, my writing was published in two area newspapers and two more magazines. I competed for, and won, one of fifteen available spots in the annual American Society of Magazine Editors fellowship in New York City.
Since graduating BU, I have moved to Washington, D.C., where I work at the United Nations World Food Program, the world’s largest food and humanitarian aid agency. I am also pursuing my master’s degree at Georgetown University.
Though it has been six years since I last attended a JeffCo school, I can trace all of my successes back to the education I received in the county. My positive experience has made it even more disappointing to read about the school board’s proposed changes to AP US History.
Teaching only the positive aspects of US History has grave implications for students’ ability to recognize injustice and grapple with the US’s complicated foreign and domestic policies. How can students be expected to think critically about the history of this country without a complete understanding of events and the resulting implications?
Students can become engaged citizens and patriots without censorship of the most uncomfortable portions of our shared history. Indeed, citizens have been doing so since the country’s inception. But without the free flow of information – starting in our classrooms – our students are denied the very thing that the US was founded on: the right to decide for themselves.
Please abandon these proposals and focus on finding innovative ways to give our students the education they will need to excel in the global economy. Otherwise, I fear success stories like mine will no longer come out of JeffCo.
Jeffco Student 1994-2008