“Students in the Denver Public Schools need to know reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, but what about the fourth “r” — revolution?


District officials have scrambled to respond to a public outcry over language in the new teacher-assessment criteria that describes a “distinguished” teacher as one who “encourages students to challenge and question the dominant culture” and “take social action to change/improve society or work for social justice.”

The district’s “Framework for Effective Teaching” also said teachers would be scored on whether “Spades tudents appear comfortable challenging the dominant culture in respectful ways.”

John Peterson, an East High School social studies teacher, said he didn’t think spurring students to buck power fell under his job description.

“I think our job is not to challenge the dominant culture, but to prepare students for college or the military or the workforce, and be productive citizens,” Mr. Peterson said. “‘Working toward social justice’ typically comes as code words from the far left for big government programs and a redistributionist philosophy.”

After critics challenged the language, calling it more suitable to an Occupy Wall Street manifesto than a public-schools document, the district revised the standards by eliminating references to the “dominant culture” and “social change.”

The updated language says a top teacher “encourages students to think critically about equity and bias in society, and to understand and question historic and prevailing currents of thought as well as dissenting and diverse viewpoints,” and “cultivates students’ ability to understand and openly discuss drivers of, and barriers to, opportunity and equity in society.” “