Regular readers know that I am concerned about a very inadequate proposal to revise Kentucky’s social studies standards. As Kentucky’s 2011 History Teacher of the Year Donnie Wilkerson points out, the proposed social studies standards are “devoid” of any substantive content.
Numerous important things we would want all Kentucky children to know about, such as Kentucky’s Constitution and the major wars this country has fought, are all completely unmentioned in the proposal.
Part of the problem is the proposed revision is extensively based on a document called “The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History,” more commonly called the “C3 Framework” for short. The C3 Framework stresses higher order analysis skills for students of the social studies, perhaps excessively so. However, the real problem is that even the C3 Framework itself says:
“This Framework does not include all that can or should be included in a set of robust social studies standards, and intentionally preserves the critical choices around the selection of curricular content taught at each grade level as a decision best made by each state.”
In other words, states need to add meat to the C3 Framework because it is only partially complete, at the very best. The problem for Kentucky is that whoever created the Kentucky proposal didn’t add that content. They never finished the unfinished job from the C3 Framework.
SOCIAL STUDIES DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY
After I posted What’s missing in Kentucky’s proposed social studies standards?” a couple of days ago, BIPPS friend Steve Shreeve suggested that I should look at the History and Social Science Curriculum Framework for Massachusetts, which came out in 2003. Even though this is called a framework instead of a standard (which may be mostly a semantics issue), the excellence in that Bay State document compared to the paucity of value in the Kentucky proposed standards is striking.
Before you even open them, the contrasts start right away when you compare the number of pages in each document. Kentucky’s proposal, which is supposed to cover all instruction in history, geography, citizenship and so forth for all grades from Kindergarten to the 12th grade, is contained in just 45 pages total. The Massachusetts document contains 140 pages, more than three times as long.
The stunning difference in quality in the two documents gets more dramatic when you start to search out details. For example:
• Kentucky’s proposed social studies standards never mention the “American Civil War” – not once. In sharp contrast, the Massachusetts document lists the term “Civil War” 29 times, including numerous references to both the American Civil War and even a mention of the English Civil War, as well!
• You cannot find the “American Revolution” mentioned even once in Kentucky’s proposed standards. Massachusetts’ standards list the term in a dozen places and starts to introduce students to this important material in the third grade.
• You won’t find a single reference to the “Declaration of Independence” in Kentucky’s proposed standards, either. Again, this term is found in a dozen places in Massachusetts’ far superior document.
• The “Civil Rights Movement” does not exist in Kentucky’s proposal. This important movement is mentioned four different times in the Massachusetts standards.
• Closely allied to the absence of civil rights discussions in Kentucky’s draft social studies standards, “Martin Luther King” is never mentioned in Kentucky’s proposal. His name appears eight times in the Massachusetts document.
• Kentucky’s social studies proposal has the audacity to completely omit reference to Kentucky’s state constitution. Bay State kids will learn about their state’s constitution as it is mentioned eight times in their state’s standards.
• Although Kentucky’s proposal was assembled this year, it completely omits any mention of the Persian Gulf War. Even though the first Gulf War was fought only a few years before the Massachusetts social studies document was created, that conflict is mentioned two times in the Bay State’s document.
• Kentucky’s kids might not learn anything about our nation’s three branches of government, but kids in Massachusetts do get exposure.
• The New Deal gets extensive coverage in Massachusetts, but not even a single mention appears in the Kentucky proposal.
I could go on, but I think the point is already well made. There is real meat in the Massachusetts document; Kentucky’s proposal is just a travesty that will likely lead to many of our kids being essentially ignorant about many important events and insights into the history of our country.
There is no other way to put this: Kentucky’s proposed standards for social studies are vacuous. They grossly fail to provide even a very basic minimum set of statewide standards for things all Kentucky’s children should learn to be an informed citizen. Even Kentucky’s current social studies standards are better (although they are not very good).
It is time for our state board of education to call a halt to this horribly misguided effort. Let’s take a hard look at ideas from Massachusetts, instead. Our kids, indeed our state and nation, deserve at least that much.