Blogging from the Social Studies Hearing III

by TFN

2:25 – The board broke for lunch after David Barton’s comments. Next up will be comments from representatives of the social studies curriculum writing teams.

2:48 – The board is going through each grade level, listening to the curriculum writers. Nothing particularly controversial.

2:52 – Curriculum writers are using this opportunity to defend themselves against criticism that they had left out important Americans and events in their earlier work on the standards. Teachers are explaining the importance of keeping in mind when (at what grade level) and how various historical facts are introduced. We’ll probably have fewer posts here unless some controversy develops during this testimony.

2:59 – Well, this didn’t take long. SBOE board member Terri Leo notes that the Legislature requires students to learn about patriotism, and she objects to references to “global citizenship” in the standards. Such references, she says, don’t promote patriotism.

3:01 – Leo also objects to leaving a discussion of Nathan Hale out of the standards for first grade. But teachers are explaining that Hale’s execution is a difficult and perhaps disturbing concept for such young students. Further, they say, there are very few good, age-appropriate materials available for teaching students about Hale. But Leo and board member Cynthia Dunbar are insisting that Hale must be included. In the grand scheme of things this surely isn’t a big deal. But it’s another example of the board’s far-right members thinking that teachers don’t know what they’re talking about.

3:07 – Leo is back on her “global citizens” complaint. She thinks this is unpatriotic and doesn’t promote American “nationalism.” Board member Bob Craig speaks up to disagree. He’s too kind to say: Leo’s objection is wacked. Does she think first-graders are going to suddenly turn into anti-American zealots because their teacher talks about the concept that we’re all citizens of our world?

3:25 – The curriculum writer for second grade notes that her team never considered dropping Thurgood Marshall from the standards and were, in fact, proud to be able to teach about him. This helps correct the misconception promoted by some board members that objections to Thurgood Marshall came from the writing teams. In fact, those objections came from the so-called “experts” — David Barton and Peter Marshall — appointed by board members themselves.

3:55 – We’re still here. Most of the discussion is focused on specific examples of names and events in the standards. Nothing controversial.

4:45 – A curriculum writer for Grade 6 expresses her dismay over the bogus “war on Christmas” controversy. She explains there was never an intent to keep teachers from teaching about Christmas. It’s absurd that she has to explain something so basic — the writing team was offering one example of a significant holiday from each of the world’s major religions. They included Easter for Christianity instead of Christmas. There was no hidden effort to attack Christmas or Christianity.

5:16 – SBOE board member Don McLeroy asks why the U.S. 8th-grade history curriculum team ever considered removing a standard requiring students to “describe how religion contributed to the growth of representative government in the American colonies.” The curriculum writer notes that there was never majority support for removing it.

5:20 – McLeroy: “We were impressed with David Barton’s command of history.” Well, not all of us, Dr. McLeroy.

5:23 – McLeroy wants students to learn about what he believes are the biblical and Christian foundations of American government: “I’m convinced that’s a missing link, a missing story, about the foundations of our country.”

5:39 – In the government course, SBOE member Terri Leo says she wants the Bible and William Blackstone listed in a standard about “principles and ideas that underlie the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution.” Board member Bob Craig objects, noting that the standard is speaking about “principles and ideas.”

5:45 – Don McLeroy weighs in again on Christian foundations for America. “I agree, we are a secular state. We are not a Christian nation.” But then he goes on to insist that the nation was founded on biblical and Christian principles. “The atheist secularists today say there is no truth and we just evolved. And those are clearly not the principles enunciated in our nation’s founding documents.” McLeroy argues that “there are deeper principles than the Enlightenment principles,” meaning Christian biblical principles.

5:48 – The curriculum team member for the government course suggests that a separate standard on the Judeo-Christian foundations of American government might be better.

6:03 – SBOE Pat Hardy suggests changing the U.S. history standard about identifying “significant” conservative individuals and advocacy organizations to just “significant advocacy organizations” (not just conservative), along with the list of examples. Hardy suggests adding to the list. SBOE board member Mavis Knight suggests leaving out all examples of “advocacy organizations.”

6:07 – Don McLeroy wants discussion of civil rights laws to note Republicans who worked to pass them. All of the groups listed now, he says, are from the left. The political push, he argues, came from Republicans, and more Republicans voted for it than Democrats.

6:18 – McLeroy says he has a problem with the difficulties of choosing which organizations to include as examples of advocacy groups. Well, duh. That’s why the standards shouldn’t be listing groups based on whether they are conservative or liberal. They should be listed based on what they accomplished.

6:55 – SBOE member Barbara Cargill wants to add Puritan and colonial American Pilgrim influences and teachings to a standard that has students “trace the process by which democratic-republican government evolved from its beginnings in teh Hebrew legal tradition, classical Greece and Rome, through developments in England, and continuing with the Enlightenment.” This is only one of the places in the social studies curriculum in which Cargill wants students to learn that the Puritans/Pilgrims influenced the development of representative government.

6:59 – The board has concluded the hearing. Curriculum writing teams will now consider recommendations from board members and the so-called “experts” in revising their first drafts of the standards. Second drafts of the standards are due before the board’s next meeting in November.


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