We’ve written a number of blogs over the past half year (such as here here, here and here to just mention the more recent examples) about a problematic proposal to revise Kentucky’s public school social studies standards.
We see a number of problems including the virtual depersonalization of history as scarcely any (count of just 4 at present) historical figures are listed in the document. There are disturbing and massive omissions of key people like James Madison, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln (we kid you not) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Key inventors, who play an important role in the story of American exceptionalism, are all unmentioned. You won’t find the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, or George Washington Carver, a black who rose out of slavery to become and important scientist, in this skimpy package.
The proposal also ignores many important terms, especially in the area of geography where neither the North nor South Poles are listed as items all Kentucky children should learn. Other things that have important impacts today such as the atom bomb go unmentioned, too.
There are some important legal issues, as well. Kentucky still has School Based Decision-Making councils in firm control of each school’s curriculum, but it seems the people who created the standards don’t understand that and instead talk about local school districts’ involvement when that is actually against the law.
Also, Senate Bill 1 from the 2017 Regular Legislative Session makes it clear that anything not included in the new standards cannot appear on the state assessments that will be based on those standards. You would think that requires standards that are fairly detailed. But, that isn’t how these standards turned out, leaving it open to question what actually is fair game on the state assessments. That uncertainty will likely launch Kentucky, again, into the world of test-driven school curriculum – something many teachers and parents hate.
The standards are dubious even when we use a very simple test – how many pages long are the social studies standards compared to other subject standards just approved?
First, consider that the “Design Considerations” found on Page 11 in the Revised Standards indicate social studies has only four strands: civics, geography, economics and history. However, as summarized in the table below, the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) own web site page for social studies currently indicates many more strands pertain, including in addition to those four mentioned above: anthropology, archaeology, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, sociology as well as content from the humanities. This KDE definition of social studies is apparently taken from the National Council for the Social Studies, by the way.
So, even using the limited and incomplete set of “strands” in the proposed standards, the social studies will cover at least four major areas.
In sharp contrast, the recently approved Kentucky Academic Standards for Reading and Writing only cover those two areas.
BUT, the proposed social studies standards currently run 219 pages in length. The new reading and writing standards are 458 pages long.
Got that? Half the subjects, twice the length!
Even allowing for the fact that some material in the new reading and writing standards is repeated on each page, the social studies standards are still shorter. And, there is a fair amount of repetition of material in the social studies standards, as well. Basically, even though this is a crude test, it looks like the reading and writing standards are considerably more detailed. And, there is a lot less to cover for reading and writing than there is for social studies, where there really should be 13, not just four strands of subject material.
If you want to comment on these standards, click here for information.