THE BLOG
10/24/2014 02:13 pm ET Updated Dec 24, 2014

Dear Jeffco Students, Sorry If It Feels Insulting, But You're 'Pawns'

After one of the meetings of the Jeffco School Board, I was driving my teenager home from school, and we heard conservative radio host Kris Cook's analysis of the meeting:

Cook: "They had students saying, 'Don't censor my history,' and taking umbrage at the fact that we, correctly, labeled them as pawns, because they have been made into pawns. I'm sorry students. I know that feels insulting. But your critical thinking skills are not where you think they are. And that is not your fault. Honestly, you've been offered a one-sided view for so long that you don't know how to assess both sides of a situation and come down on what the truth may be." [BigMedia emphasis]

I looked over at my teenager, who definitely has enough critical-thinking skills to understand a school-board proposal, and thought, why the crass condescension?

And Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has said essentially the same thing, that teachers are manipulating the Jeffco students.

Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt also called the students "pawns."

My kid doesn't go to the Jeffco schools, but if you've ever spent time with teenagers from Denver, Jeffco, or anywhere, or if you've ever been a teenager yourself, you know that when they decide to focus on something other than Facebook or Snap Chat, they're amazing.

So I emailed Cook, who hosts KLZ's Grassroots Radio Colorado, and I asked why she had such a low view of the intellect of Jeffco teens.

Cook wrote that "no censorship had been proposed by Julie Williams or anyone else on the school board," and, yet, the "students, by their own admission, were protesting censorship of the AP US History curriculum."

It is apparent from the students' statements that they had not read Williams' proposal prior to making their statements. So where have the students received such a ground of certainty that the proposal was about censoring the curriculum, when such language is in fact the polar opposite of what was proposed?

In order to answer that, I ask myself: who has something to gain by mobilizing the students to protest a censorship that hasn't even been proposed? The only answer that makes any sense is the union. They have plenty to gain by demonstrating to the school board that they wield the power in Jefferson County as they head into salary negotiations before the August cliff next year. The students have nothing to gain from this (except a day off from school). The parents have nothing to gain. Only the union stands to achieve anything beneficial from this.

Cook went on to write that, prior to the big Jeffco board meeting, students participated in a union-organized rally. And a "supposedly student-to-student Facebook site, JeffcoStandUp" contained pro-union ads and information on how teachers are paid.

Cook, whose full response to me can be found here, is correct that some of the students (and adults) overstated what the board was doing, turning it from a "review" to an actual proposal. The review, you recall, suggests a greater focus on "positive aspects" of U.S. history without encouraging "civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

But I disagree that parents and students had nothing to gain from protesting the board's request for a superfluous review committee that was apparently intended to drive policy changes around curriculum without the support of the Jeffco community.

It's a huge leap to say all the students are pawns just because they might agree with some of what the union is saying.

That's like saying Cook or Beauprez is a pawn of school board.

Or that Cook is a pawn of RMGO or one of her advertisers, or Rand Paul, or someone who makes the same arguments as she does on her radio show every afternoon.

Full response of KLZ 560-AM's Grassroots Radio Colorado host Kris Cook to my question about her comment that Jeffco students are "pawns:"

The students, by their own admission, were protesting censorship of the AP US History curriculum. They felt strongly enough about this to walk out of class and stand on sidewalks holding signs. The curious thing is that no censorship had been proposed by Julie Williams or anyone else on the school board.

Here is the actual text of the "suggested review criteria" from the proposal made by (and later withdrawn by) Williams during the September 4 board meeting:

"Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions."

The students' statements have morphed "Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder" into "The proposal said that they would try to limit events in our history that have been examples of civil disobedience," one statement among many documented by JeffCo Truth (see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0lAX5OuIoo). As I'm sure you'll agree, that is not an accurate restatement of the proposal. It is not in the proposal. It is not suggested by the proposal. It isn't even insinuated by the proposal.

It is apparent from the students' statements that they had not read Williams' proposal prior to making their statements. So where have the students received such a ground of certainty that the proposal was about censoring the curriculum, when such language is in fact the polar opposite of what was proposed?

In order to answer that, I ask myself: Who has something to gain by mobilizing the students to protest a censorship that hasn't even been proposed? The only answer that makes any sense is the union. They have plenty to gain by demonstrating to the school board that they wield the power in Jefferson County as they head into salary negotiations before the August cliff next year. The students have nothing to gain from this (except a day off from school). The parents have nothing to gain. Only the union stands to achieve anything beneficial from this.

This answer has been bolstered by evidence uncovered since I made those statements on Grassroots Radio Colorado. Students participated in and spoke at a union-organized rally before the October 2 school board meeting. The supposedly student-to-student Facebook site, JeffcoStandUp, contained an ad for Boots on the Boulevard II, a union-organized protest. This page also contained a very thorough explanation of how the teachers are compensated - not usual fodder for a student-led movement.

As a result of the above, I believe it is reasonable to state that the students have been made pawns of the union by having an inaccurate interpretation of Williams' proposal communicated to them. Further, the students did not check this interpretation against the actual proposal. My statements flow from this reasoning. I welcome other interpretations and the opportunity to discuss them with you and your readers.