Students 'should learn to respect authority' – and how to disobey it

September 30, 2014, 2:00 PM GMT+0

Americans say that high school history lessons should encourage respect for authority, but also oppose any move to stop them learning about anything that might encourage civil disorder or social strife

High school students in suburban Denver have taken to the streets to protest a proposed change to the history curriculum that would emphasise patriotism and seek to prevent teachers covering events that might encourage "civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law". Republicans recently won the Jefferson County school board and have pushed for wide ranging changes to how public schools in the country operate. The changes to the history curriculum come after the College Board's revised guidelines for AP U.S. History teachers which have been condemned by national Republicans and conservative groups.

The latest research from YouGov shows that Americans are split on the substance of the Jefferson County School Board's proposals for the history curriculum. On the one hand most Americans (69%) say that high school history lessons should encourage students to respect authority and the free market system, though 16% disagree. On the other hand only 22% of Americans agree with them that history lessons should avoid teaching material that might condone or encourage "civil disoder, social strife or disregard for the law". Partisan differences aren't particularly significant on either of these questions, with majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans agreeing with each other on each question.

When it comes to the general emphasis of history lessons, however, there is greater division. Overall, 37% of Americans think that classes should give greater emphasis to patriotism while 41% say that greater emphasis should be given to critical thinking. 55% of under-30s and 56% of Democrats say that history lessons should prioritize critical thinking, while 57% of over-65s and 61% of Republicans say that it should have a greater emphasis on patriotism.

Nevertheless, only 11% of Americans think that you cannot be patriotic and critical of American history at the same time, though 75% say that patriotism and critical attitudes can go hand in hand.

Full poll results can be found here.