And how that impacts Kentucky’s new, and very poor, social studies standards
Back in September, Hechinger’s published a short, must-read article about “Why Content Knowledge is Crucial to Effective Critical Thinking.”
Some key points:
- Teaching generic critical thinking skills, such as logical reasoning, might be a big waste of time.
- Critical thinking exercises and games haven’t produced long-lasting improvements for students.
- Research literature shows that it’s very difficult for students to apply critical thinking skills learned in one subject to another, even between different fields of science.
- Scientists are united in their belief that content knowledge is crucial to effective critical thinking.
- The best approach is to explicitly teach very specific small skills of analysis for each subject.
So, how does this relate to Kentucky’s very poor social studies standards that were adopted last summer? The answer is that Kentucky’s social studies standards, while loaded with comments relating to how students should “think critically, reason and problem solve,” never the less have extraordinarily bad coverage of even the minimal content knowledge every Kentucky student should know. Hold Kentucky’s new standards up against those from other states, even Mississippi’s current social studies standards, and the omissions in the Bluegrass State’s product are truly glaring. Here is just a very short summary table with a few Kentucky to Mississippi comparisons.
Now, per the Hechinger’s article, it just becomes even clearer that the guiding principals behind the creation of Kentucky’s social studies standards, whatever they were, don’t agree with the research and these standards badly need to be pulled back for more work.
The good news is that the legislature can make that happen without even passing a new bill. The standards were adopted by regulation, and new rules for regulations allow legislators to recall any of them for review at any time. If the regulation is declared deficient, which can be done either by a subject matter committee, in this case an education committee, or by the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee, the reg and the associated standards go back to the Kentucky Board of Education for more – in this case badly needed – work.
If you think Kentucky’s children need to know about Ben Franklin, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Edison and many others also not covered in the Kentucky standards, and if you think Kentucky’s students need to learn about South America, the Vietnam War, the genocidal Balkan War, and many other important things, you need to follow up on this.
So, let your legislator know. And tell them to send anyone who disagrees to Hechinger’s for a lesson on why content really does matter, even for those thinking and analysis skills the social studies standards are supposedly going to create.