Education Week just released an interesting article by Stephan Sawchuk with the rather pertinent title for Kentuckians of “How history class divides us” (subscription). Kentucky is currently going through the process of revising its public school social studies standards, and these standards must contain everything about history that the Bluegrass State’s students are expected to know and understand.
But, as I have pointed out earlier such as here and here and others have mentioned such as here, the current working draft of the Kentucky social studies standards is clearly rather vague regarding real history content regardless of the coverage format.
Actually, it’s anybody’s guess whether much of anything from history will be covered based on this draft.
In fact, even though Sawchuk’s article leans towards a more revised approach to history instruction than many in Kentucky might favor, the article does stress that in using new approaches, having students reference “primary sources” of historical information is a key to an effective program.
Well, Kentucky’s draft is so devoid of information that the term “Primary Source” never appears, according to my word search of the PDF document. The draft does discuss obtaining “Relevant Information” in a number of places, but what exactly does that mean? Information could be relevant to a topic, but it might also be wrong, or at least second or third level hearsay. That’s not what historians consider primary information, but if the draft doesn’t change, Kentucky’s students will never know that.
So, don’t let anyone fool you that Kentucky’s draft social studies standards are proposing exactly the sort of changes Sawchuk mentions. The draft isn’t doing good history, or much of anything else, very well, either.