Proposed Rewrite of N.C. Social Studies Standards Draws Fire

By Erik W. Robelen — February 05, 2010 2 min read
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A draft of revised social studies standards for North Carolina is facing criticism, with a chief complaint being that high schoolers apparently would only be taught about U.S. history beginning after Reconstruction. But a top state official says such complaints are missing the big picture of what the state has in mind for U.S. history K-12, and that no child would miss out on George Washington or Honest Abe.

James Elias writes on the Common Core blog that the state “plans to eliminate the Revolutionary War, Andrew Jackson, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War and most of Reconstruction from high school American history classes. ... How can students assume the responsibilities and privileges of democratic citizenship if they don’t know the basic facts of our national experience?”

A Fox News story quotes a history teacher and an education analyst as also criticizing the draft standards.

But state Superintendent June Atkinson says the revised standards would actually increase the amount of time students spend studying U.S. history during their elementary and secondary schooling.

“Our goal is to give students more study of United States history and to teach it in a way that helps them remember what they have learned,” she said in a Feb. 3 press release. “The events, people, and dates that are so familiar to many of us will still be taught to students. That means everything from early exploration through the Civil War, the 20th century, and today.”

The press release says that under the draft curricular framework, students would get a full year of U.S. history instruction in both elementary and middle school, significantly more time than they receive now. Students would also study civics in high school, and could choose from a wide range of additional electives in history, including more American history.

The high school U.S. history course would begin with 1877, at the end of the Reconstruction period.

That would replace a “broad, sweeping survey” course of American history, and allow teachers more time to “dig deeper,” said Vanessa W. Jeter, the communications director for the state education department.

To see for yourself what the draft document is proposing, you can examine the proposed revisions online. Also, you can compare them with what is currently in place.

The deadline for submitting comments on the current draft is Feb. 15. The revised standards are slated for “several rounds of revision” before being finalized, according to the press release from the state education department.

Image provided by the Library of Congress.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.