Continuing our discussion of concerns about the social studies standards revision approved by the Kentucky Board of Education on February 6, 2019, we created some comparisons to social studies standards from Massachusetts and Indiana, two states which – among other acknowledgments – have in the past received high marks for their history coverage from the Thomas Fordham Institute.
In this blog, we will look at some of the issues highlighted in our Massachusetts comparison. The table comes from our comments paper, which you can also access here.
You can see Kentucky’s newly approved social studies standards here.
You can access the full Massachusetts social studies standards here.
Important Note: Massachusetts calls its standards a “framework,” but the Massachusetts document is actually similar to what we call “standards” in Kentucky because the Massachusetts document outlines what is fair game on that state’s assessments.
In any event, the items summarized below (click the Read more link to see them) are a very small sample of the many differences in coverage found in the Kentucky and Massachusetts documents and are selected to make several points:
- Often, even when Kentucky does cover material, it comes notably later than when Massachusetts covers it.
- Massachusetts definitely does not depersonalize history. Its standards are loaded with references to many historical figures the state wants to insure every student gets exposed to. In Kentucky, it is anyone’s guess if any of these individuals will ever be mentioned at all.
- The coverage of war seems to virtually cease in the Kentucky standards with World War II. There is no specific mention of Korea, Vietnam or the Persian Gulf conflicts. That makes a requirement for all schools to observe Veterans’ Day somewhat ironic. Most living veterans today fought in wars our students might never learn about.
• With the Middle East prominently figuring in current events involving our country, one would expect coverage to be considerable. Shockingly, no mention of modern Middle East events and implications appears in the Kentucky standards.
- Again, with concerns about nuclear proliferation constantly cropping up in the news, the absence of any mention of the atomic bomb and related subjects in the Kentucky standards is disturbing.
- The law says our schools have to teach about the Holocaust. But, the Kentucky standards never provide a place where that will happen. That sort of omission doesn’t happen in Massachusetts.
In summary, the Massachusetts standards are rich and only take 131 pages for the full presentation. The Kentucky standards, due to a large amount of repetition and lots of discussion about how to teach, but not what to teach, run to 229 pages (note, the Kentucky document has a pagination error, so the last page has the number 234 on it). You can see similar comparisons for Indiana’s standards in our comments paper.
By the way, the new Kentucky standards still need to go through a public comment period and a legislative review, so your chance to speak out isn’t over. In fact, since the final version of the standards only became available around the very end of January, this is really the first chance you will get to talk about what actually got approved.