Blogging the Social Studies Debate III

by TFN

6:07 – The board will pick up where it left off in January — with high school social studies courses. Chairwoman Gail Lowe explains that the board wants to finish the high school courses this evening and then consider new amendments to other courses discussed in January.

6:11 – The board is beginning with the high school world history course. The board is considering whether references to dates use the shorthand BC and AD instead of BCE and CE. Some board members suggest BC and AD are more traditional. Yes, but that’s not what students will encounter (for the most part) when they get to college. Board member Mavis Knight urges the board to ensure that students know historians use both dating methods. But board member Terri Leo says she wants the traditional dating approach: “I disagree with the whole philosophy of why we date.”

6:19 – Leo wants a recorded vote on whether students should learn dates with BC and AD or BCE and CE. Good grief. This is only the first amendment — there’s a long night ahead.

6:25 – BC and AD win, with Lowe voting in favor. Apparently, Lowe has decided to drop her policy — to which she adhered in January — not to vote as board chair. That will strengthen the far-right faction’s hand throughout this debate.

6:43 – We just got a look at four amendments board member Barbara Cargill will propose. Students would be expected to “explain three pro-free market factors contributing to European technological progress during the rise and decline of the medieval system” (what three factors?); “explain three pro-free market factors contributing to the success of Europe’s Commercial Revolution” (again, what three factors are those); “explain three benefits in the Industrial Revolution” (OK, but what three benefits?); and “explain three reasons why socialist central economic planning collapsed in competition with free markets at the end of the 20th century” (WHICH three reasons?).  First, Cargill gives publishers no suggestions for what factors and reasons she wants publishers to note or students to learn. Second, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have an economist and a historian on hand to advise the board about these amendments? For example, would “pro-free market factors” as understood today have existed in the feudal systems of the Middle Ages? We don’t know, and we seriously doubt board members have a clue themselves. But here we get another example of board members making changes to the standards on the fly with little understanding of what they’re really doing. We’ll let you know when these amendments come up for a vote.

7:10 – Now we have board members debating the causes of Middle East terrorism. A lot of scholars and experts have studied this, of course. How in the world would these board members be qualified to know the answer? Yet they are determined to put their opinions into the standards.

7:15 – Where are the scholars? The classroom teachers? Any experts at all? Not in this boardroom. The board decided in November to proceed on the demolition of these standards without any further guidance from teachers, historians or anyone else who would actually knows what they’re talking about. This is foolishness in the extreme. We wonder if Don McLeroy, a dentist, would support having lawyers, insurance salesmen and political activists make decisions about standards for teaching and training new dentists. We rather doubt it.

7:30 – The board just voted to remove Oscar Romero from a list of leaders who led resistance to political oppression. Board members said he wasn’t as significant as other examples listed in the standard — Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Ghandi and Chinese student protesters in Tiananmen Square. Yet it’s clear that most board members don’t even know who Romero was. (One board member: “He didn’t have his own movie like the others.” He then corrected himself because, of course, there was a major movie about Salvadoran archbishop who was assassinated in the 1980s.)

7:37 – The board just voted to add the late Israeli leader Golda Meir to the world history standards. Board member Rick Agosto was opposed to the motion, saying he’s upset the board is adding names while removing someone of Hispanic heritage (Romero). Board member Terri Leo: “Well, we’re adding a Jewish woman.”

8:21 – Board member Barbara Cargill’s amendments are up now. We noted these above at the 6:43 mark.

8:23 – Board member Pat Hardy echoes our point earlier: would “pro-free market factors” as we understand them today have existed in a feudal system in the Middle Ages?  Look, Cargill isn’t a historian. What in the world does she know about “pro-free market factors” in the Middle Ages? Or in any other era, for that matter? Board members are voting on something about which they know almost nothing. The amendment about “pro-free market factors” in the Middle Ages fails. The amendments on the Commercial Revolution, the Industrial Revolution pass. Good grief. Ignorance reigns tonight (again). Board member Pat Hardy points out that not all socialist economies have collapsed, offering Finland and Sweden as two examples. Cargill withdraws her motion on the collapse of socialist central economies.

8:43 – The board has voted to adjourn for the evening. The board will continue the social studies debate tomorrow morning.

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