Petition to save the job of a H.S. history teacher who dared to teach about the Founding Fathers

Breaking News

The Carson City (NV) school district says 11th-grade history teachers should start teaching American history at the Civil War period and move forward. But one experienced, award-winning teacher is standing up to this History-Lite policy and is insisting on teaching about our nation's colonial and Founding eras. And he might lose his job over it. Citizen Outreach is asking people to sign an online petition to save his job.

Meet Joe Enge.

Joe is an award-winning, 15-year veteran history teacher in Carson City who has, among other things, written two history textbooks and served on the 1997 task force which drew up Nevada’s history standards. But according to school district administrators, he’s a “bad” teacher.

You see, Joe has this crazy idea that American history should include our colonial period, as well as the Revolutionary War period. You know, where the Founding Fathers fought for independence from England and wrote the greatest governing document the world has ever known - the United States Constitution. You know, that period of time which gave us patriot heroes such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Hancock.

And Joe has REALLY ticked off the local school district bureaucrats and the education establishment.

You see, unbeknownst to most parents in Carson City, the school district believes that high school American history should start with the Civil War era, not the days of America’s Founding. Indeed, the curriculum forced on history teachers at Carson High School ignores pre-Civil War history completely - other than a little optional “refresher” at the beginning of the school year or if you’re in an Advanced Placement class.

Joe Enge has fought the district’s History-Lite curriculum for the past three years by teaching ALL of his students ALL of America’s history, starting with the colonial period (remember the Pilgrims?).

In addition, Joe believes...get this...that the teacher should teach and the students should learn. He embraces and practices the “traditional” teacher-centered method of education, as opposed to the fashionable student-centered “discovery learning” method currently all the rage in San Francisco and Portland. What a trouble-maker.

So the school district wants to get rid of him.

Joe’s supervisors - including Carson High’s principal, Fred Perdomo - have given Joe unsatisfactory evaluations in retaliation for his refusal to teach a Founding-free version of American history. And although Joe’s a “tenured” teacher, three such bad evaluations would be grounds for running this maverick out of town on a rail (students would have to read Revolutionary War-era history to know just what this phrase means). So Joe challenged the administrative evaluations; however, the Carson City School District Superintendent, Mary Pierszynski, sided with the principal. Big surprise there.

Last month as part of a mediation effort, Ms. Pierszynski offered to buy Joe off by paying him one year’s salary if he’d quit. And considering the pure hell this one-man fight has put his family through, Joe actually considered it. But at the last minute, Pierszynski withdrew her offer, and now the dispute is moving to binding arbitration. Which means if Pierszynski’s ruling backing Perdomo’s evaluations stands, this Fulbright Scholar and Madison Fellowship award-winner will likely be tossed out on his kiester - and his Carson High students will finally be taught that American history began when Lincoln freed the slaves.

Of course, the teacher’s union could always ride in and defend this experienced, professional classroom educator. Yeah, right. Fat chance. You see, Joe has chosen not to join the teacher’s union, so these “principled” defenders of teaching professionals are more than happy to see the guy thrown to the wolves.

This entire episode is an outrage. Joe Enge is the kind of teacher we should WANT educating our kids. He loves history. He knows history. And he’s darned good at teaching history. Indeed, Enge’s spirit of resistance to this great injustice would make our Founding Fathers - who the Carson City School District would prefer to pretend never existed - proud. Especially Thomas Jefferson who (not that Carson City high school students would know it) once said, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive.”

It’s time for Superintendent Pierszynski, Principal Perdomo and the entire Carson City education establishment to call off the dogs and let professional American history teacher Joe Enge do what he’s been trained to do and has been successfully doing for 15 long years: TEACH AMERICAN HISTORY. The FULL American history, not the district’s “Reader’s Digest” version.

Please help keep American history IN ITS ENTIRETY alive at Carson High School by signing this petition urging the Carson City School District to allow Joe Enge to do what he’s been trained to do: Teach ALL of American history.

Chuck Muth
Citizen Outreach

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Joanna Marie Cahill-Carmona - 8/29/2007

This is what our country is all about...or is supposed to be about-The freedom of its citizens to speak up for what they believe in. I think you have a valid point- it is important to understand history in its context. American goes all the way back to the Native Americans who inhabited our country long before Leaf Erikson or Colombus ever brought small pox to the "New World". Stand up for what you believe in...isn't that what we want to teach our kids? Do they deserve any less?

wes fox - 3/22/2006

Sorry. I forgot to paste the link.

wes fox - 3/22/2006

Follow this link. I used it in grad school to stop a professor from trying to "mold me into her idea of what a history teacher should be."

John J Capozucca - 3/7/2006

"Those people" sounds fishy to me. Ms. Cowan's anti-Christian bigotry is noted.

Alice Lillie - 3/6/2006

Teaching pre-Civil War American History is essential! It was during this era that the country was still living according to the principles under which it was founded.

See my blog. It is a long-ish blog, so I'll be brief here.

John Edward Philips - 11/24/2005

I agree with those who feel we are only getting one side of the story here. If the school curriculum teaches the history of the US before the Civil War in a different year I really see no problem.

A more important potential problem is in colleges, especially since American high school is so weak and college so strong. Unless American history becomes a required subject few students will learn anything about it. If only one class is required, those who take only the post Civil War class will not understand the Founding Fathers and the Revolution, or even the Civil War.

I'm teaching US history now, and those who take only one of the two courses often do not understand the context, or implications, of events covered in the other course. Some of these students even complain if I bring up facts from one course in the other course. I'd like to see the complete survey course required, but that's not likely. As long as students are required to take one (1) history course they will take one or the other course in the survey, but never both.

Jeremy Greene - 11/21/2005

1) It is insubordination.
2) I think it is possible to put U.S. history starting at the Civil War in context in one unit as most teachers who teach US II do. To teach a half a year of a course to lead up to what is your actual curriculum is see #1

Jeremy Greene - 11/21/2005

1) It is insubordination.
2) I think it is possible to put U.S. history starting at the Civil War in context in one unit as most teachers who teach US II do. To teach a half a year of a course to lead up to what is your actual curriculum is see #1

Dr. Anthony R. Ruffino - 11/21/2005

So Joe Enge inists on teaching history
as it should be taught---fully. I can't help think of the likely result of modernizing our teaching of history, explained in the old saw:
"Those who will not learn from history may be compelled to re-live it! "
Bravo Joe Enge!

Seth Cable Tubman - 11/20/2005

It is NOT insubortination to teach the entirity of American history. History DID NOT begin after the Civil War. One historical event flows to another. An example: The Boston Tea Party led to the closing of Boston Harbor and the Intolerable Acts. THAT led to the First Contiential Congress in 1774 (not that you people care), which led to Committees of Public Safety being formed. THAT in turn, led to Lexington and Concord, which led to King George III declaring the colonies in a state of rebellion, which eventually led to the founding of an entity we now call the United States. You MUST put everything in context.

Katie Christine Peterson - 11/15/2005

The facts aren't thorughly covered, meaning I can see the loopholes in this story and I am in college, not a professional as of yet.

Katie Christine Peterson - 11/15/2005


Katie Christine Peterson - 11/15/2005

His boss is a former history teacher, so next time check your facts.

Andrew Hadley - 11/12/2005

I agree that this sounds fishy. My 12th Grade American History class (1959) covered the period from the Civil War to the present, however, my 11th Grade class covered the period up to that time.
Conspicuously missing from this story is any comment from the Carson City School Board.

Victoria Straughn - 11/12/2005

To check out more details, especially about the union question, read my comment under "History Teacher," posted November 7.

Mike Bruner - 11/8/2005

I also would like to know more details. Why the reference to the union. A non-union history teacher? Why would he want union support if he isn't a member?

Steven R Alvarado - 11/8/2005

Your bigotry is showing.

Victoria Straughn - 11/7/2005

What is this petition really about? Check out the "Citizen Outreach" home page and philosophy: "The ONLY practical and realistic way to control the size and scope of government is to "starve the beast." That means tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts and more tax cuts..." ("About Us") The author of this letter does not exhibit a concern for public education at all. His agenda mirrors the statements found on the "Citizen Outreach" website:
"...the failure of our government -run schools to adequately and fully teach our founding history along with civic responsibility has resulted in a full generation of Americans who no longer understand or appreciate the notion of self-reliance, rugged individualism and the virtue of strictly limited government. Such ignorance poses significant danger to our continued freedom and independence. Compounding the problem is the existence of well-funded organizations which actively support ever-expanding government, including labor unions, trial lawyers, radical environmental group, "race hustlers," ultra-feminists, etc. These special interests have the money and the clout to push for bigger and more costly government and are able to employ the best lobbyists that money can buy."

As a high school history teacher myself, I have a great deal of concern for the other history teachers in Carson City who are teaching a multi-cultural and feminist approach to history. They, like the Texas teacher former President of OAH James Horton wrote about last year in the OAH Newsletter, are no doubt under attack from the censorious voices at "Citizen Outreach." I worry for my younger colleagues who must stand up to the censorship of parents and students who want to hear their history minus the stories of labor, people of color, women, and environmentalists.

As a parent and as a teacher, I am frustrated by teachers who do not deliver the curriculum that has been outlined for specific grade levels. As an earlier comment noted, the curriculum outline in many states requires early American history to be taught at the middle school level. Late 19th century to the present is scheduled for the 9th and 10th grades. How absurd to suggest that anyone can teach "all" of American history in a single course. What does this teacher plan to omit? Check out the Citizen Outreach website to find out.

Victoria Straughn

Maia Cowan - 11/7/2005

Before I support this petition, I want to know what he's telling the students about the Founding Fathers. Is it within the range of facts supported by the historical record, or is he one of those people who confuse the Founding Fathers with the Twelve Apostles?

Jeremy Greene - 11/7/2005

So, he's supposed to teach from 1865 to the present for the whole year and he is spending probably about half the year teaching US history up to that point. Thus, not covering the latter half of the US curriculum for the time or depth desired.

Methinks someone has a few favorite subjects.

If they pay you to teach history you don't teach them math.
And if they pay you to teach US II you don't teach US I.

Verdict: insubordination

Lynn Max Cheatum - 11/6/2005

History must be preserved, not dissected.

Walter McElligott - 11/5/2005

I'll gladly sign something that supports Joe or anybody else who works so hard to train our kids in the truth parents are too lazy or dumb to provide.

Obviously his boss falls into the latter category.

Craig Michael Loftin - 11/5/2005

It does seem telling that Mr. Muth has not mentioned the broader history curriculum aside from the 11th grade. In my education, colonial history dominated during the elementary and middle school years. Why such a long rant without addressing this obvious point? I sense this is not the whole story.

Thomas Reimer - 11/4/2005

They learn that in 7th grade! 8th is after the civil war, 9th Global history. If there is a state curriculum, he can't disregard it like that, short of opening his own charter school.

John J Capozucca - 11/4/2005

Is this just a local petition? Can anyone sign it? Is the petition online?