Political argument in Cody over education materials

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CODY, Wyo. (AP) — Proposed new reading materials for students in Cody schools have drawn criticism from some who say they promote a liberal agenda, including inaccurate discussion of global warming and a disproportionate focus on the stories of minorities.

However, supporters of the proposed curriculum say that the critics are over sensitive to the materials and that the new reading materials are needed to help students succeed in today's world.

The Park County School District 6 school board has been looking at the proposed curriculum for about two years. It held a public meeting Tuesday night where many of those who spoke favored the new materials.

The reading materials in question are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which also have drawn opposition across Wyoming, the Casper Star-Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1K57d7k ).

The controversy comes after an 18-member committee spent the last two-and-a-half years studying texts for students from kindergarten through high school.

In the end, the committee proposed the adoption of roughly $300,000 worth of materials that cover a variety of subjects, including global warming, evolution and race. Material for high school students also focuses on British, American and contemporary literature.

Critics include members of the community and the school board. They say the materials promote "junk science" and offer a "one-sided" view of historical events.

Board member William Struemke said the materials presented "a very liberal, very slanted view of the world."

He complained that stories within the texts are disproportionately about minority groups and that he would like to see more "white leaders" included.

"I've never liked excluding greats just to have a certain race or sex in a book," he said.

School trustee Scott Weber said he took issue with how the readings dealt with global warming.

But former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, a Republican, stressed the importance of teaching students the less flattering parts of the country's history.

"Unless you show the warts, you can't prove how you got here," Simpson said in a Wednesday interview.

Simpson, a Cody High School alumnus, also said those who deny that global warming has occurred are wrong.

"I think it's critically important that nobody leaves this school district thinking global warming isn't real," he said.

Mariah Stephens, a junior who is graduating early from Cody High School and has her eyes on several prestigious colleges and universities, has a hard time understanding the reasoning of those criticizing the reading materials.

Ultimately, she said she worries that if students aren't exposed to these ideas that they will be unprepared for college and life ahead.

Originally, the board was supposed to vote on the proposal during the meeting, but after nine people filed formal complaints, the trustees followed a school district policy that mandates that a committee be formed to address the complaints.

The board plans to meet June 1 to select committee members.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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