Colorado Social Studies review team argues about Nazi designation in curriculum

Suzie Glassman

By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) Three Colorado Social Studies revision team members expressed frustration with the state board of education for ignoring their recommendation to create an additional History standard that would clarify course expectations for educators and include more specific language on international atrocities and those who perpetrated them.

Cassie Moore, Samantha Westerdale, and Anastasia Brown sent a letter to the board in advance of this month’s meeting stating:

“Over the past several months, we have listened as our motives and integrity have been questioned in your public meetings and watched as some of the work we put countless unpaid hours on weekends and evenings into has been, in some cases, entirely dismissed.

“We were incredibly dismayed when the board addressed the Holocaust legislation this fall and failed to consider our recommendation. Instead, they returned to the prior biased and inaccurate standard and simply stated, ‘Nazi party and its collaborators.’

In August, Republican board member Steve Durham lobbied the board to include the full name of the Nazi party (German Socialist Workers' Party) whenever it's mentioned in an effort to link the Holocaust and other genocides to socialism. Experts say this concept is misguided.

To compromise, Democratic board member Karla Esser offered an amendment to describe the Holocaust as “carried out by the German Nazi Party and its collaborators. The board approved this language 7-0.

The letter urges the state board to reconsider this decision and another about characterizing events in China as genocide. Moore, Westerdale, and Brown acknowledge mass atrocities that occurred in China but argue they don’t meet the historical genocide definition.

“It’s essential that we demand historical accuracy and critical thinking in our Social Studies standards. The future of our democracy depends on educated, engaged citizens, and it’s essential that our Social Studies standards support our young people in grappling with real-world issues, historical and modern, in all their complexity.”

Social Studies review team

A contentious debate broke out between members after conservative director Debora Scheffel suggested throwing out the state’s current standards and starting over with a program called American Birthright.

The suggestion failed when the board voted 4-3 to turn it down.

Durham implied members of the social studies review team were biased, saying his “own research” found the team was more than two to one Democratic.

The 33-member committee consists of early childhood to high school teachers, social studies coordinators, a principal, an assistant principal, a parent, a small business owner, a special education teacher, and the Global Children Financial Literacy Foundation president.

The 7-member state board will vote on the final version of the standards Thursday, November 10.

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I tell the stories of Douglas County school district administrators, staff, teachers, parents, children, and community members who call this county their home. I aim to inform the public on issues big or small related to the school district that matter to those with a vested interest.

Denver, CO

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