Thanksgiving is a time of remembrance and gratefulness in our country. It’s a time when we recall the sacrifices and great struggles our forebears endured to build our great nation. And, in some states they do a solid job of teaching public school students about the background of this major American holiday. For example, the Massachusetts statewide social studies standards include this third grade requirement to insure all students in that state do learn about the first Thanksgiving:
“3.3 Identify who the Pilgrims were and explain why they left Europe to seek religious freedom; describe their journey and their early years in the Plymouth Colony. (H, G, C, E)
A. the purpose of the Mayflower Compact and its principles of self-government
B. challenges in settling in America
C. events leading to the first Thanksgiving”
That’s a great lesson standard in Massachusetts. It does not provide full curriculum on the subject, but it does provide a solid outline of what is generally expected to be covered in each school.
That’s good for Massachusetts; but, kids in Kentucky’s schools probably won’t learn much about the history behind Thanksgiving if a proposed revision to Kentucky’s social studies standards is adopted. You see, many of the special things this season brings to mind were totally ignored by whoever put the Kentucky draft social studies standards revision together.
For example, a search of the PDF version of the social studies draft that was presented to the Kentucky Board of Education in early October fails to locate a single mention of any of the following terms often associated with the first Thanksgiving celebration in our country:
• “Pilgrim” (“Pilgrim” or “Pilgrims” mentioned 10 times in the Massachusetts social studies standards)
• “Mayflower Compact” (Mentioned 5 times in the Massachusetts’ standards)
• “Thanksgiving” (Holiday mentioned 4 times in Massachusetts’ standards)
• “National Holiday” (“National Holidays” mentioned 5 times in Massachusetts’ standards with specific direction to teach children the background behind each of the national holidays)
• “Patriot” (Variations of “Patriot” including “Patriotism” and “Patriotic” are found 7 times in Massachusetts’ standards)
Consider that last bullet: social studies should be teaching students about citizenship. Apparently someone in the Kentucky Department of Education doesn’t think patriotism plays any role in that.
So, as you sit down to a big dinner on Thursday, take a moment to be thankful that Kentucky’s social studies revision has been put on hold while the Kentucky Board of Education catches its breath to reconsider.
Personally, I hope the board takes a good look at the excellent standards from Massachusetts and decides to use that as a model to build a really superior social studies standard for Kentucky, one that will insure all Kentucky students learn about this important and historic holiday and a whole lot of other important things about our country and state that the Kentucky draft proposal totally ignores.
Right now, the board is collecting public comments about the social studies revision, and I urge you to contact them to encourage a real set of standards like those in Massachusetts and not a vacuous, unnourishing turkey. There is a quick response site for inputs here. However, that surveymonkey site might overly restrict and channel your suggestions, so don’t be reluctant to write a letter that says it exactly the way you want it, to be sent to:
Kentucky Board of Education
c/o Kentucky Department of Education
501 Mero Street
Frankfort, KY 40601
Now, go do some homework over this Thanksgiving weekend so Kentucky’s kids can really get a good social studies education! And, do have a very Happy Thanksgiving!