Regular readers know I am extremely unhappy about the quality of Kentucky’s new social studies standards, which finally became official on July 5, 2019. One of my major concerns is that the new standards omit tons of important content that every child in the state deserves to learn.
Now, it looks like even the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence understands that the content included in the new standards is, at best, “lean.”
A number of BIPPS blogs discuss examples of omitted content in Kentucky’s new social studies standards. You can find those blogs by entering the term “Social Studies” in the blog’s search feature. But, if your time is limited, here are just a few examples of what’s missing in Kentucky’s new social studies standards:
- No war after World War II is listed,
- All presidents other than Washington and Jefferson are unmentioned (Yes, even Kentucky’s own son, Abraham Lincoln, is never mentioned!),
- MANY other important figures in history like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Benjamin Franklin – in fact ALL other historical figures except, strangely, Sam Adams and Daniel Boone – are omitted,
- Communism is never mentioned,
- The atom bomb and its important implications are never discussed,
- Important, peaceful events like the Louisiana and the Alaska purchases are not mentioned.
It’s worth noting that a WHOLE LOT of important content – including names of many important historical personalities that are totally unmentioned in Kentucky’s new social studies standards – can be found in new, 2018 standards from Massachusetts. Why does Kentucky ignore so much content included in the highly regarded Massachusetts standards? Is that wise?
Here are just a few examples of the much richer content coverage in Massachusetts’ standards.
You can see more examples of what Massachusetts covers but Kentucky omits by clicking here.
The bottom line: Kentucky’s new social studies standards are woefully deficient in content, perhaps to the point of disrespect to many historical figures and events.
Even the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence seems to get this.
Prichard recently posted an article about the new standards, especially praising them for pushing student analysis skills. But, while Prichard says the requirements for “problem solving, understanding perspectives, and building shared decisions” in the new standards are “robust,” the organization also tellingly writes:
“…the science standards and the social studies standards took on a similar design challenge, trying to combine (a) high expectations for students engaging in key practices of scientists, historians, and other practitioners and (b) a lean statement of very important disciplinary content (Underline for emphasis added).”
Well, what Prichard calls “lean,” I would say is downright unacceptable.
The war I fought in (Vietnam) and any mention of the country of Vietnam and the political ideology involved are all omitted. I am sorry, but even the term “lean” doesn’t excuse those omissions.
Even worse, ignoring the lessons to be learned from the Vietnam conflict, which have bearing on today’s current conflicts in the Middle East, ranges beyond being “lean” into the realm of irresponsible.
By the way, Massachusetts’ standards mention both the country of Vietnam and the Vietnam war in several places. Massachusetts also covers other modern wars like the Korean War, the Chinese Civil War, the conflict in Bosnia and the various wars recently fought in the Persian Gulf. Considering the fact that Kentucky’s new standards never mention any of these events, that just rubs salt into the wounds.
While providing far more specific content than Kentucky’s new standards mention, the 2018 Massachusetts social studies standards don’t short-change the “problem solving, understanding perspectives, and building shared decisions” stuff that so impresses Prichard, either.
Problem solving is listed in Massachusetts’ social studies standards under its general “Guiding Principle 10” where it talks about:
“…practical civic skills that students need to engage effectively with others in the public problem solving of civic and democratic life.”
That same Massachusetts Guiding Principal says students need to learn to “take on the perspectives of others” while in that state’s Grade 1 specific standards it discusses “why members of a group who hold different views need ways to make decisions.”
Clearly, Massachusetts’ social studies standards are far richer than Kentucky’s, and that is especially obvious when you consider the content included.
Is this what Kentuckians really want? Can it be that Kentucky’s schools are now to become even “Bluer” than those in Massachusetts?
Certainly, it isn’t hard to find studies that would strongly condemn the very weak content coverage in Kentucky’s new social studies standards. Groups as diverse as the more conservative Pioneer Institute and the more liberal American Federation of Teachers (AFT) both stress the need for detailed content.
For example, Pioneer’s 2017 “Laboratories of Democracy: How States Get Excellent K–12 U.S. History Standards” points out that quality education standards:
“…should be detailed and specific. State history tests…must be based directly on standards that leave no room for ambiguity.”
In its “Making Standards Matter 2001” the AFT talks about:
“…standards that meet AFT’s common core criterion—that is, they are detailed, explicit, and firmly rooted in the content of the subject area.”
AFT repeats that message in its 2003 publication, “Setting Strong Standards,” where the term “clear and specific” is mentioned numerous times.
“…a higher-order academic skill such as reading comprehension requires prior knowledge of domain-specific content.”
Sadly, it is also reported that Hirsch knows current Ed School thinking doesn’t acknowledge this important fact, and that Ed School misdirection is clear in the new Kentucky standards.
So, vague or totally devoid standards don’t meet any of these groups’ or individual’s requirements.
By the way, if you are wondering what quality education standards look like in general, this short video will give you an idea:
In closing, I ask: Is it fair to our kids not to insure they know about Benjamin Franklin, who invented the telephone, issues with the atomic bomb or about every war since World War II?
I don’t think so. And, I think once Kentuckians really look at what is, and is not, in their state’s new social studies standards, I expect they will agree that the coverage isn’t just lean, it’s downright lousy.