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Denver students protest erasing civil disobedience in U.S. history

The Washington Post reports that on Sept. 24, hundreds of students walked out of their Denver Advanced Placement A.P. history classrooms in response to a school board decision to review how the class should be taught. According to the Post, the school board plans to change the focus of the class so as to highlight the more “positive” and “patriotic” aspects of U.S. history. In the school board’s eyes, Denver history classes should in no way condone acts of civil disobedience or disregard for law, and should ignore instances of social strife in order to focus on the positives of the United States’ past.

Although this decision creates a more positive outlook on the history of the United States, it fails to include incidents of disobedience whether positive or negative that have changed the course of the nation and even affect us to this day. Can we in good conscience exclude individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr. from our textbooks? Can the actions of Gandhi be wiped from the face of world history? Despite many events having negative undertones, we cannot ignore the fact that they happened simply for the sake of preserving the United States’ image.

Along with excluding events of civil disobedience, the school board also moved to promote a greater sense of patriotism in the classroom. As great as that might sound God bless America, both of these actions contradict each other. Let’s discuss one of the most patriotic events in the United States’ history: the Boston Tea Party, a perfect example of civil disobedience. Despite being the catalyst for U.S. independence and the ultimate symbol of patriotism, the entire ordeal involved tarring and feathering innocent merchants who were simply trying to do their jobs. I’ll even go so far as to say that those involved would most likely be classified as terrorists in today’s society.

The Denver school board’s decision would likely require that this event would be wiped from the face of history – at least in these classrooms – because it displayed blatant disregard for the law and civil disobedience, but I cannot imagine how teachers would explain how the Revolution started without including one of the most important events of our nation’s past.

In fact, this nation’s entire beginning was one giant show of civil disobedience, so the school board’s decision would consider our claim as a nation null and void because Americans are just a bunch of rowdy hooligans looking to lay waste to law and order.

This decision is so blatantly ridiculous that it makes me worry for the future of our nation. You can’t change history because it sounds bad – most people would call that lying. We can’t lie to our children to protect them from the truth about our nation’s past. Yes, bad things happened. Our history is riddled with strife and turmoil, from slavery to the presidency of Herbert Hoover. But denying these facts to the youth of this nation is denying them a truth that will help us resolve problems in the future; as we all know, history repeats itself. I can honestly say that what I learned in A.P. U.S. history has only made me a better citizen, because understanding the truth about the United States’ past allows me to understand and engage in disucssion of current issues.

Hats off to the students in Denver, because not only does their protest show that the youth of this nation want to understand the past in order to assess the present, it gives me the confidence that America can remain an influential power in this world. And to the Denver School Board, please reconsider your decision, because if you dare remove the Whiskey Rebellion from the annals of history, this nation will surely crumble and fall apart and I’m sure none of us want that to happen.

Cole Hatzky ’18 is from Iowa City, Iowa. He majors in English and Norwegian.

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