Conservative CO school board member: AP history is wrong, US ended slavery 'voluntarily'
Image from the American anti-slavery almanac, 1836, Flickr Commons

A member of the Colorado Board of Education said the United States ended slavery “voluntarily” while defending a revised, nationalistic history curriculum for AP students. Some conservative counties in the state have adopted the new curriculum to protest the current national Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum.

Talking Points Memo reported on a Facebook post by board member Pam Mazanec, a businesswoman who represents Colorado's 4th Congressional district on the state board. Mazanec said that she thinks the AP history class too consistently "denigrates" America rather than praising its exceptional qualities and great achievements.

On Saturday, she commented in a Facebook group discussion about the curriculum, writing, "Do any of you know the ideology of those who crafted the new framework and sample test? How do they get their position to craft the AP Framework? Who are they accountable to and how are they held accountable? Is it possible they have an agenda? Just wondering."

Another commenter -- AP history teacher Jennifer Heiser Long -- wrote back that the curriculum is assembled by veteran AP teachers.

"Pam," Long wrote, "their agenda is to make sure AP students who pass the AP test and receive college credit have truly received the equivalent of a college course. I promise you, that's it."

Mazanec responded that she still doesn't believe the AP curriculum gives the U.S. enough credit for the country's historic successes.

"I have read the framework and the sample test and my concern is an overly negative view of our history and many of our historical figures," she said.

"I've spoken with some history professors with very impressive credentials who told me this new framework doesn't surprise them and is aligned with the content of college level history courses that downplay our noble history and accentuate the negative view," she continued.

"As an example, I note our slavery history," Mazanec wrote. "Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn't our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH Framework support or denigrate that position?"

The businesswoman went on to question the authority of the people who designed the curriculum, writing, "Is the College Board above question? And if so, why so? Their credentials? Aren't their others with equal credentials who are critics? How do you determine who is fit to decide what our students learn?"

Stephanie Rossi -- an AP U.S. history teacher at Wheat Ridge High School -- strongly disputed Mazanec's version of events in an interview with the Colorado Independent.

“The idea that the United States voluntarily gave up slavery is an outright misrepresentation of history. The United States engaged in a civil war to end slavery. There was nothing voluntary about it,” Rossi said. “I’m just flabbergasted at anyone who would make that claim. Flabbergasted.”

Denver-based civil rights activist and pastor Patrick Demmer said that Mazanec’s version of history demonstrates that “she’s willfully ignorant at best or she is racially disingenuous at worst.”

“She shouldn’t be on the education board,” said Demmer. "What her comment and that whole movement is trying to basically do is repaint history in a way that takes away the ugliness and the hurt and abuse that the African American in America suffered and endured to get to where we are right now."

Students and teachers have engaged in waves of civil disobedience to protest the white-washing of the AP curriculum. Teachers have walked out of classrooms and teachers have held mass sick-outs as gestures of defiance toward what many view as an outside attempt to inflict a conservative agenda on the state's education system.