North Carolina students might find themselves listening to songs of protest against the Vietnam War, explaining how Cesar Chavez organized farm workers and how to ensure that eligible voters are not denied the right to vote.
These activities are some of the suggested tasks included in the new social studies materials for middle and high schools that be voted on Thursday by the State Council of Education. The âunboxing documentsâ are intended to give advice to teachers who should start using the controversial new K-12 social studies standards this autumn.
Supporters say the new standards are more inclusive because they pay more attention to the perspectives of historically marginalized groups.
âIf we want to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, why wouldn’t we want their minds set free so that they can think critically about the systems that perpetuate injustice? Rodney D. Pierce, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Nash County Public Schools, said an interview.
Pierce helped write the new social studies standards and unpack the materials for grade eight teachers.
But the new guidance documents are likely to face the same criticisms that have been voiced in previous meetings by Republican state board members who say the standards are too confrontational.
Critics pointed out a national report released last month by the Fordham Institute which gave North Carolina a D rating for its new civic education standards and an F rating for its American history standards. The conservative think tank called the standards inadequate and said they should be rewritten.
“The standards document is just rife with poorly worded gibberish that means nothing or is unclear,” David Griffith, one of the authors of the Fordham Report, said in an interview. âThis is the opposite of what the standards should be. “
New social studies standards debated
The new social studies standards were a source of controversy even before they were passed in February in a vote divided by 7-5 by the Democratic majority in the state council.
Critics accused social studies standards of incorporating “Critical Race Theory“, A” scientific framework that describes how race, class, gender and sexuality organize American life, “according to the Department of History at UNC-Chapel Hill. This view argues that systemic racism has been and continues to be a part of the nation’s history.
In June, a divided state council voted to approve the unboxing documents for use in elementary schools. Republican board members have raised concerns such as how Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice, was omitted from a list of grade 5 women “who have contributed to change and innovation in the United States â.
The state board adopts the standards in each subject, but decisions about the curriculum are left to the discretion of school districts and charter schools. This is even more the case in social studies, where there are no more statewide reviews for the subject.
Teachers are not required to use the unpacking materials. But the documents offer suggestions on what to cover and examples of assignments that can be given.
Studying Discrimination in America
The new middle and high school unboxing documents contain many examples of how teachers can apply new standards that examine the experiences of women, minority groups and marginalized groups.
For example, one of the grade eight standards asks for an explanation of how discriminatory practices have been used to suppress or exploit certain groups. Sample topics include âBroken and broken treaties with Native American tribes,â internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, and redlining – the practice of refusing to offer mortgages to certain areas of a community.
In secondary civic education, one of the standards asks students to compare the strategies used by different groups to combat discrimination. Examples of events include the Greensboro sit-ins in 1960, the Stonewall uprising in New York in 1969 that sparked the LGBTQ movement and “an organized protest for the environmental justice movement.”
In the history of American high schools, one of the standards examines how discriminatory practices have altered population distribution and regional cultures. A suggested assignment is to have students discuss the impact of “discriminatory practices and policies Latinx faced during the migration period 1990-2020”.
The documents are filled with examples of topics such as voter identification laws, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), undocumented immigrants, affirmative action, gerrymandering, the LGBTQ movement. , the Flint Water Crisis and the 1898 coup in Wilmington.
The documents also offer different ways to reach students, such as suggesting the use of TikTok-style videos for projects and incorporating hip-hop culture as one of the examples for studying the multiple perspectives of American identity.
âWe’re going to take something they like to assess them,â said Pierce, the social studies professor. “They’ll think, ‘I’m going to have fun making a TikTok video. “But they are learning at the same time.
Too much emphasis on fairness?
Pierce said the unboxing documents don’t provide everything the teachers who worked on it suggest. But he said they will provide a “more honest education” to students than the old standards.
But Griffith of the Fordham Institute is more skeptical of the unboxing documents. He said the documents should list which examples should be required to cover.
Griffith also said the standards need to have a better balance between fairness and teaching substantive content.
“It is quite valid and important at some point in 13 years to ask the big questions about the connection between our history and what we see today or not and to put on the fairness glasses at least once” , Griffith said. âThat said, there are a lot of other things we expect from history and civics teachers in the United States.
âDue process is important, executive power is important. I could go on. If you care about fairness, you should care about substance.
John deVille, a high school social studies teacher in Macon County, says the documents can be transformative, especially for young social studies teachers who take them to heart. But the veteran educator believes only metro districts such as Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg will use the unboxing materials to direct teaching.
âTeachers teach as they’ve been taught, so unless you dig and constantly challenge yourself, you’re going to be teaching American history this fall as you’ve taught it for the past 10 years,â he said. said deVille in an interview.
Lawmakers question what is taught
The standards come at a time when elected state Republican officials have become more vocal in their criticism of what is taught in public schools.
The State House has approved a bill to delay the use of standards until 2022. The bill is stalled after the Senate rejected changes made by the House.
The House also passed bills establishing new rules for how racism can be taught and requiring teachers to post their lesson plans online. Neither bill has yet been passed by the Senate.
Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger and GOP Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson highlighted how “anti-racist” professor Ibrahim Kendi spoke at an event at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to claim that the critical theory of the race infiltrated the state’s public schools. Critical Race Theory made up less than two minutes of the 40-minute speech, the Charlotte Observer reported.
“This fear that North Carolina social studies professors might become allies of the Black Panther Party or teach the way Ta-Nehisi Coates or Nikole Hannah Jones would teach is crazy,” said deVille, a self-proclaimed progressive educator. âIt just won’t happen.
âNorth Carolina teachers are in the center, center-right. They are going to teach their course center, center-right.