Community members weigh in on Re-2 possibly adopting conservative social studies curriculum
Opinions over Garfield Re-2 School District’s potential push to deviate from the state social studies curriculum permeated the Silt Branch Library on Wednesday. Many supported accepting the conservative American Birthright program.
American Birthright, a social studies standard rejected by the Colorado State Board of Education in 2022 for being too extreme, calls out diversity, equity, inclusion or social justice as harmful to learning.
Nearly 50 community members and parents joined Wednesday’s public forum, the first of four to be held over the next two weeks.
“I think offense has become part of this culture that we’ve come into since 2019,” said local parent Isaac Robinson, adding his opinion on Re-2’s current social studies structure. “There are things that are being taught that are, I would say, against the Judeo-Christian foundation, morally.”
Robinson also said there are subjects currently being taught to children under age 12 that should be left up to the parents and that not all history is being taught.
“Here’s the facts — the word slave comes from the Slavic people who are white people being enslaved by Moors,” he said. “That’s where the word comes from, and we refuse to teach that to our children. We get 1700s, maybe late 1600s. But we’re cutting off history. We were all slaves.”
Re-2 Superintendent Heather Grumley said there were 13 content standards across Colorado that were reviewed every six years. But in 2020, the state decided to revise the process, which now reviews one-third of these content standards every two years.
This has prompted Garfield Re-2 to decide whether to adopt one of three standards moving forward: the 2022 Adopted Colorado State Standards, the 2022 Revised Colorado State Standards or the American Birthright.
Recommendations for the 2022 Adopted Colorado State Standards, however, drew controversy when it called for highlighting diverse peoples and naming specific groups. This includes citing African Americans, Latino, American Indian, Asian Americans and LGBTQ communities.
This also prompted Re-2 Board President Tony May to introduce into discussion possibly adopting the American Birthright Standard, a program created by Civics Alliance, which is being billed as a “nonpartisan” effort to teach American patriotism and liberty.
“Let’s start taking care of our kids again in our community and not putting that responsibility on the schools,” local parent Caleb Waller said. “I’m in support of what I’ve seen with Birthright, to be honest with you guys. I’ve looked at it as a dad, and I said this is great.
“I was talking to a kid the other day, 12 years old, and he knows who Martin Luther King, Jr. is but he doesn’t know who George Washington is, right? That’s kind of disturbing to me as a dad.”
Many other speakers echoed this sentiment, either saying the social studies curriculum is too politicized, denouncing its teaching of the LGBTQ community to younger students and even promoting sexual abstinence before marriage.
But not everyone in the room agreed. Wearing a Susan B. Anthony shirt that says “Organize, Agitate, Educate” across the front, Silt community member and mother of two Coal Right High School graduates Jenny Zetah said the American Birthright is “incredibly shortsighted,” especially as the Garfield Re-2 student population continues to become more diverse.
More than 50% of Re-2 students are Latino.
“I spent my career as an advocate for our Latino students and their families, and I can’t believe that this district would believe that this Eurocentric, biased curriculum would properly prepare students for the world around them,” Zetah said. “Remember, we are a public school district and the American birthright standards were rejected by the Colorado State Board of Education for being too extreme.
She added, “The National Council for the Social Studies states, and I quote, ‘Implemented in schools, these suggested standards would have damaging and lasting effects on the civic knowledge of students and their capacity to engage in civic listening and deliberation.'”
Since first addressing the social studies curriculum in May, Curriculum, Assessment and Student Success Director Jacob Pingel said the district has put forth an action plan for addressing what to do next. This includes a survey, which is available at http://www.garfieldre2.net.
“As part of that action plan, we wanted to go and get input from all of our different communities, from all of our different stakeholders on the different options and the different pathways that we might consider moving forward,” he said.
According to Grumley, the district still has an entire year to decide on which social studies program to adopt.
Further public forums over Garfield Re-2’s social studies program:
• 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, Rifle Branch Library, 207 East Ave.
• 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, Rifle Branch Library
• 6-7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, New Castle Library, 402 W. Main St.
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