The attempts by the school board of Jefferson County, Colorado to erase significant chunks of our nations' history has not gone unnoticed.
I want to make it perfectly clear to the people behind this movement that this will never happen in New Jersey as long as I am Senate President. History should not be rewritten or reinterpreted because of an ideological agenda. We want young people to learn the truth about our history. We learn from our history and it can guide us to do more and to do better.
The Jefferson County school board attempted to re-write the history books to teach students the "benefits of the free-enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" while omitting events that "encourage or condone civil disorder or social strife."
As an ironworker who was born and raised in a proud union house, I find this attempt to be despicable. It is abundantly clear that this agenda is being pushed by the newly elected right wing members of the school board and is in line with the radical Republican agenda in Washington.
From the time this new majority of the school board took office, they have been waging a fight against teachers and unions. Language like "free-enterprise system" is code for anti-union and their attitudes and their actions are consistent with their rhetoric.
This attempt to cleanse from history anything conservatives find objectionable repudiates everything our Founding Fathers believed.
The Declaration of Independence, potentially the single most important document ever written, was a clear objection of English Authority over the colonies. The Declaration states: "That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it."
Without efforts of Civil Disobedience and empowerment of those oppressed, our country would not have freed the slaves, allowed non-land owners to vote, given women a right to vote, passed the New Deal, or passed Civil Rights Laws. It is only when the citizens of this great country have followed the words of the Declaration that the country has moved forward.
Preventing our students from studying subjects like slavery, the New Deal, women's liberation, civil rights, the Great Depression, and the Trail of Tears won't make them more patriotic. It will make them less prepared for college, uninformed of their nations' history and ill prepared to think critically.
The beauty of history is that it allows students the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills in ways that most courses could never come close. These skills are developed and sharpened by being presented opposing views of people and events and drawing your own conclusions based on the facts at hand. This is what we are all required to do in order to assimilate and find success in life.
In New Jersey, I have made education one of the chief priorities from the moment I sought elected office. From building national model schools for the disabled as a Gloucester County Freeholder, to pushing for passage of the Dream Act and fighting to make college more affordable, I have always put education at the forefront.
I believe it is incumbent upon our teachers and our educators, my son now among them, to present history in a way that is impartial and unbiased in order to allow students the opportunity to think for themselves and examine all sides of an issue. Those are skills that will serve them well throughout their entire life regardless of what profession they choose.
The school board in Jefferson County essentially wanted to eliminate any conflict or controversy in United States History. That's unfortunate, because part of what makes this nation so great is precisely the history of how we have arrived at this point. It isn't always pretty and that's the point.
Senate President Steve Sweeney represents the Third Legislative District, which includes portions of Gloucester and Cumberland counties and all of Salem County. First elected to the New Jersey Senate in 2001, Senator Sweeney has been reelected four times. He was chosen by the Democratic Majority to lead the Senate in the 214th Legislature in 2009, and took the oath as Senate President on January 12, 2010. Senate President Sweeney entered public service after his daughter was born with Down syndrome. He was horrified at the manner in which individuals with disabilities were treated and set out to make a difference not just in his daughter's life, but in lives of those in his community. Follow Senate President Sweeney @NJSenatePres