During the Kentucky Board of Education meeting today, board member Gary Houchens (a Bluegrass Institute Board of Scholars member, BTW) mentioned that I have concerns about the draft social studies standards revision the board is considering. Since he made that public, I think our readers deserve to see my observations paper, too.
Click here to see my observations about Kentucky’s social studies standards draft.
My concerns range from the sudden disappearance of things like “Freedom of Religion,” currently found in the state’s existing standards, to questions about why every war since World War II goes unmentioned although earlier wars such as the Spanish American War and World War I are included. Is that a slight against many of our living vets?
There is considerable irony, too. Introductory pages to the draft standards discuss a Kentucky law, “KRS 156.160, AN ACT relating to instruction on the Holocaust and other acts of Genocide.” This subject has to be taught, but you can search the entire rest of the document without successfully locating any mention of the grade(s) where this will happen. The ONLY place the word “Holocaust” appears is in the description of this law at the beginning of the document. The Holocaust isn’t found in the actual standards – ANYWHERE. How can standards list such a law and then essentially fail to comply with it?
More irony: Another legal provision listed in the front of the standards is “KRS 158.075, Veterans Days observance in public schools.” Recall my earlier comments that NOWHERE do the standards ever mention the Korean, Vietnam or Persian Gulf Wars. That leaves out a lot of vets who might not feel much honor as students look like deer in the headlights when those vets mention the wars they fought in.
Still more irony: The Kentucky draft standards cite reference materials that supposedly guided the people writing them. One of those references is a rather interesting model standard for geography from the National Geographic Society. But, it doesn’t look like much of those very good NatGeo suggestions actually made it into Kentucky’s draft document. For example, I see nothing about how maps are marked out in “Grids” as NatGeo specifies in the expansion of its Standard 1 for Grade 4. You won’t find grid-related terms like “latitude” and “longitude” in the Kentucky document, either. That’s a surprise because states with highly regarded standards like Massachusetts and Indiana include those terms.
I don’t even see anything that specifically requires our kids to learn about the boundaries, rivers, mountains, etc. that form the Bluegrass State, let alone much about the rest of the nation’s and world’s geographic features.
Oh, yeah, don’t expect to find the term “coal” anywhere. I guess this is already a dead subject as far as the draft’s writers are concerned. In fact, the term “Energy” is also totally absent. Imagine that.
All the vagueness makes me wonder exactly what is going to be fair game on the new Kentucky social studies tests. If you are a teacher, you really need to worry about that. All the vagueness is going to make it a real challenge for social studies teachers to develop curriculum, too. They are going to have to make a lot of assumptions. Guess wrong, and the tests might be a real problem.
By the way, highly regarded standards don’t look anything like this Kentucky mess. You will see some examples of that if you open up my observations paper at the link above.
So, pay attention here. Social studies have always been controversial, but the Kentucky draft is going to raise that to an entirely new level if some rationality isn’t brought to the table. And, it’s time to let your legislators and state school board members know it before this thing comes up for a final state board vote in February.