Social studies teachers: Politicians influencing new standards more than educators

Who should write the state’s social studies standards? Teachers or politicians? (This is not a trick question, just a depressing one.)

Georgia teachers asked to review and rewrite the k-12 social studies standards are expressing dismay over the draft released by the state Board of Education. Despite their hundreds of hours of work, teachers say they don’t recognize much of what has been put forth by the board.

They say the draft now speaks to a political agenda rather than an educational one.

Among the politicians seeking to shape the standards is state State Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, who sent State School Superintendent Richard Woods and the state school board a detailed critique.

You can read Ligon’s letter here, but this is how it starts off:

Within the K-­12 standards, the reorganization of the sequencing is now in better chronological order in Grades 3-­‐5 than the previous standards. However, the historical roots of Western Civilization are nowhere to be seen. The previous standards gave some, although not enough, attention to this topic and even did so in the lower grades.

In addition, the shift away from these historical roots in Western Civilization is replaced with a focus on early American Indian cultures. Though important, we should recognize that the dominate features of our culture are no longer anchored in native American cultures, but in the Anglo-­American traditions of Western Civilization, and therefore, the historical focus should major on the majors, not major in the minor themes of displaced cultures. This shift in focus reminds me far too much of the recent problems we addressed in the AP U.S. History Framework. We should not repeat the mistakes of the College Board in our own Social Studies standards.

Furthermore, there is a shift in language choices in how our nation is described. The previous standards clearly recognized that students needed to study our “foundations of a republican form of government.” The new description is that our nation is a “representative democracy.” This language shift starts in Grade 3. Though still a correct term, it does not reflect how our Founders most referred to this nation, which was as a “confederate Republic.” In fact, I never see the term “confederate Republic” anywhere, and only once do I see the term “Republic” mentioned in the high school standards.

Starting with Grade 1, I find no logical reason why President George Washington continues to be omitted from the standards. This should be corrected. He is not mentioned until Grade 4, and this is far too late to introduce our most preeminent Founding Father.

Grade 1 also needs to build on the American symbols learned in Kindergarten. For example, why not add the Liberty Bell and what it represents? Why not have the teaching of the Pledge of Allegiance or the introduction of the poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere? Why not introduce the first 13 colonies and have the students identify the original 13 colonies on a map?

Also, in Grade 2, students should be introduced to another Economic Standard, SS2E5  — “Explain why private property rights are necessary for a free society.”

A disappointed teacher shared a letter with me that she wrote to state school board members:

I have been a Social Studies educator, teacher leader, and content specialist for over a decade. I, like thousands of my colleagues and fellow citizens, spent hours reviewing and providing feedback on the proposed Social Studies standards that were posted for public comment.

The set of standards provided to the Board do not reflect the feedback or approval of the stakeholders in the State of Georgia. There were additions and changes made to the standards after the committee approved the final draft on March 17, 2016.

If the Board moves forward and approves the standards as they have been submitted, you will be disregarding the time and commitment of over 9,000 educators and 2,000 other Georgia stakeholders. You will lose the trust and faith Georgia educators have placed in you.  We were told our voice is being heard. Is it?

Among the questions raised by the teacher:

•Why were the standards changed at the last-minute without public input?
•Why do the last-minute changes reflect the input of one legislator, as evidenced by his letter written to the Superintendent? Changes that were summarily voted against in committee?
•Where are the U.S. History and American Government standards, both of which went through the entire review process?
•Where is the data supporting the idea for a two-year hybrid of these two courses?

The executive director of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies alerted teachers to the discrepancies in the draft and urged them to contact the state board before its meeting Thursday.

Before you read the warning letter, I would like to explain why this bothers me and why it ought to bother you.

The Legislature spent a lot of time this session talking about how important it was to treat teachers as professionals and listen to what they have to say. This sort of political shenanigans negates all that rhetoric. It shows teachers their expertise is not valued and will be quickly discarded for political expediency.

Dear GCSS Member:

As you know, the social studies standards have been under review for over a year.  The Georgia Board of Education adopted a process that included four review committees. Each review committee was charged with the “process” which included the comments of over 9,000 Georgia educators and stakeholders.  The last committee review was held on Wednesday, March 16, 2016.

Those of us who have been carefully watching the review process unfold were very surprised to find  there are major discrepancies between the work of the 3/16/16 review committee and the now posted “draft” standards.

To see the draft standards, go here.

It seems that certain items were dropped into the curriculum after the 3/16/16 committee had completed their work and voted on the changes made to each grade level/course.

Here are a few examples of random additions:

Christmas and Columbus Day in Kindergarten

George Washington and several additional memorials in first grade as well as the reclassification of George Washington Carver from science to agriculture

King George III and government elements in third grade

An entire element concerning the arguments of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists in 4th grade

Mao Tse Tung and Nikita Khrushchev and details concerning the War on Terror in the 5th grade

Iran in 7th grade (despite specific debate agreeing to keeping the countries to be studied to a smaller number and of those studied to include history, geography, government and economics)

As well as the absence of the U.S. History and American Government standards with no posted explanation of why they were not present even though both had gone through the revision process.  (This is another issue entirely which is concerning.)

Teachers from all over Georgia took time away from their classrooms to spend very long days revising the GPS and using the comments of the 9,000 as a guide.  At each step along the way, teachers and others documented the changes and cited support and commentary from the surveys.  Another important component of the committee work was that the majority of teachers wanted a more conceptual framework.  Yet, the additions cited above would make the entire K-12 curriculum more fact-based than conceptual.

These last-minute changes appear to be out of line with the public and formal revision process that was adopted and followed. At the 3/16 review committee meeting, there were emails and letters from public figures that were not a part of the teacher surveys.  Furthermore, these emails and letters contain many of the random items listed above and were rarely supported in the teacher surveys.  Some of the information was used if appropriate in the revised document.

If a few people are able to overturn the comments of thousands and the work of hundreds who were a part of the committees, then the whole process is called into question.

In addition, Georgia Council for the Social Studies and other groups sent letters of support to the Georgia Department of Education.  Our support is certainly now in question.

If you are concerned about this issue, please contact your state board of education member before the State Board Meeting on Thursday. I believe it is vitally important that we let it be known that many of our members were intimately involved in the revision process and that ALL of our members will be involved in using the curriculum with our students.

Eddie Bennett, Ed.D.

Executive Director, Georgia Council for the Social Studies

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

127 comments
Mike180
Mike180

surprise!?! This happened in the original writing of the GPS so there should be no surprise now.  GCSS had to fight hard for workable revisions when the trivia overwhelmed students but faced guerilla actions in statehouse. Regarding state legislator input-they control the pursestrings for the DOEs budget. enough said. Sign me, one who was there in the beginning of SSGPS. Learning to type on  tablet please forgive any errors.  MBergquist

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

If you want a very diverse country to eventually fly apart, then teach heresies before the catechism.

DekalbParentz
DekalbParentz

I'm ashamed to live in Georgia.  I'm a believer in public education, but I do not support what the state of Georgia is doing.    What Georgia did with AP US History was bad enough.  Now they have to   put their stamp on all grades!  I agree that teachers aren't being respected.  They haven't been for a long time, so I'm not surprised.  Georgia will never be viewed in high esteem in the business community if it can't adopt the common core and national tests to show that students here learn the same content and begin to test fairly on that content against their peers.

Joel Shipp
Joel Shipp

I'm a teacher, and I'm retiring in May. I'm done...

class80olddog
class80olddog

Hey, Wascatlady, when you first started teaching, did you teach that Columbus discovered America in 1492?  Were you lying then?

Philospher
Philospher

The agenda is NOT education- it's indoctrination.

Philospher
Philospher

Brain washing and propaganda from kindergarten forward...let's grow' em like we want 'em and they'll follow without question.

Cynthia L. Van Auken
Cynthia L. Van Auken

Why do Standards have to go before the legislators in the first place? Do they tell Drs. how they can best operate? Do they tell a scientist how to use a lab? Do they tell a salesman the procedure to sell? Don't degrees and teaching license indicate a teacher should be professional enough to set standards?

class80olddog
class80olddog

If the Doctors were telling their patients that the best way to treat cancer was through yoga, meditation, and mystic Eastern herbs, then, yes, maybe the Legislature should be stepping in.

whoknowz
whoknowz

They don't go before legislators. A legislator wrote a letter.

Randy Jack Hardwood
Randy Jack Hardwood

Next time I need surgery I'll be sure to consult my local politician.

Caroline1815
Caroline1815

Impossible to understand why Ligon thinks he is qualified to put himself forth as some kind of expert on what children should be learning - and gets away with it.  His shameless political grandstanding is exactly what is wrong with this state.  I worry so much about what my grandchildren are being taught - so skewed by politics instead of being historically accurate.  Aaargh.

concernedoldtimer
concernedoldtimer

Many book really don't teach accurate info......the founding fathers hated democracy....hence re live in a republic.

John Sukroo
John Sukroo

Ligon is a typical republican bible thumper. He should stick to that, rather than rewriting curriculum .

Mary Ingram Finney
Mary Ingram Finney

Most "educational reformers" have little to NO classroom experience.

MajorDowning
MajorDowning

What's wrong with teaching the truth? Ideology be damned. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MajorDowning The problem is that no one can agree on what the "truth" is.  Look at the disagreement over whether Columbus discovered America!

Rick Martin
Rick Martin

When we will we ever learn. Teachers don't count. Their input is useless.

Ugaboss
Ugaboss

A total act of disrespect to teachers, but what else is new.

marney
marney

Oh no...not again.    There are many good Social Studies teachers in Georgia and my kids have been blessed with 3 of them as profiled in this article that was put together shortly after the Charleston Shootings...


http://news.wabe.org/post/how-some-teachers-handle-race-and-politics-classroom


I would love for teachers to be respected enough that that we could put a good chunk of our politicians in a room to learn some of the basic rules necessary to create a civil society as discussed in the article above.


Sadly this does not appear to be the case.

simmonsw
simmonsw

  Though the article points out that teachers worked long and hard to get their ideas implemented into the curriculum, most of the reader comments refer to the teachers ideas along liberal/conservative lines and those ideas are dismissed as more liberal fluff.  Many of the comments do not give teachers any credit for the knowledge of what concepts and ideas to teach to children and when and how to teach them in spite of the fact that teachers have spent years learning how to teach and more years actually working with children.  It is apparent that many of the people commenting do not have any respect for teachers as professionals. Therefore, it is not hard to see why Sen. Ligon could get away with having his ideas inserted into the curriculum with little effort or understanding (the Federalist Papers in Fourth Grade--really?) without any public review. He merely reflects the views of many in Georgia.


I wonder if Sen. Ligon and the commenters who are so dismissive of the professional knowledge and skills of teachers feel the same way about their physicians?

Starik
Starik

@simmonsw Physicians have to receive excellent grades in college, take rigorous exams like MCAT, get admitted to medical school, graduate, pass more exams... it's hard to become a physician.  Teachers need nothing more than a degree from some college, any college, and pass a simple test (which can be taken repeatedly).  Many who teach history are really coaches who have to teach academic classes that they know nothing about.

Matthew Pociask
Matthew Pociask

The standards are written to indoctrinate children with conservative propaganda. The legislators peddling this swill have no shame. Hope that idiot legislator has to pay the state's legal fees for the inevitable court challenge to teaching the holiday of Christmas.

Jennifer Nix
Jennifer Nix

Oh my word. I've been teaching social studies in this state for 17 years and that is so absolutely false. I love how everyone thinks they are an expert on education. Every major religious holiday is taught at a very surface and basic level in the social studies curriculum. It isn't something new or controversial.

Matthew Pociask
Matthew Pociask

I am not an expert, but I do know how to read, copy, and paste. These are the proposed standards for national holidays to teach to kindergartners: Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and the current president), Memorial Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Christmas.

Matthew Pociask
Matthew Pociask

Also, I read the linked article, and the letter from the concerned educator: "Here are a few examples of random additions: Christmas and Columbus Day in Kindergarten" (the very first example!)

DavidATL45
DavidATL45

No surprise here.  The GOP has been manipulating education for decades in its attempt to dumb down the working classes and make them emotional slaves of the ruling class.

concernedoldtimer
concernedoldtimer

Actually books are pretty much written to CA students.....not republican politicians. Read a few.

bu22
bu22

@DavidATL45 Well it worked on you.  But I don't think it was Republicans.  You don't seem to understand that Democrats controlled Georgia until 2002.

gapeach101
gapeach101

@xxxzzz @DavidATL45 Do you know anything about southern democrats? Sometimes known as republicans?  Something about the civil war?

bu22
bu22

@gapeach101 @concernedoldtimer My kid's elementary history text had a number of authors.  One was a California chicano activist whose writings other than the text were almost all ethnic.  His piece in the book on the Texas Revolution was a gross distortion of reality that could have been written by Santa Anna himself.  The book even had stuff on discrimination against Blacks and Hispanics in the west.  You would hardly know we basically exterminated the Plains Indians.  There was some nonsense about destruction of habitat leading to the near extinction of the buffalo instead of the fact that we hunted them as a policy to try to starve the Indians.  And that is with our prior standards!

Dave Damron
Dave Damron

It's the people that shouldn't call the shots that always do. Every politician needs term limits. From county clerk all the way up to congress.

weetamoe
weetamoe

Oh the humanity! Teachers will be forced to include more  fact-based material in the curriculum.

rmwallace
rmwallace

Yes, because the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is pure fact (sarcasm).


Another comment
Another comment

The influence of Republican's in power has been polluting Economics courses, Macro, Micro and Global taught at the State University System for several years now.


I luckily went to college at a well respected University in D.C. and also took a Micro Economics course in a part of the SUNY system. 


My oldest took a dual enrollment Macro class at Perimeter. I was shocked when the class did not go over anything but Republican and Reagan trickle down economics. I would ask did not discuss John Kenneth Galbraith,did you not go over this. I reviewed the course work.  


Even though my child was exempt from the Econ. 101 or what ever it is called. I insisted she take it again at Georgia State.  As well as Micro and Global . All of them were narrow talking points of the Republican party. 


Paul Friedman who teaches Economics at Columbia and writes for the NY times, recently wrote an article about it. He was finding students like my daughter and others from other Red State Public College systems making in into Columbia, and finding these problems with they had only been taught these Republican Party Economic lines. They don't know the other schools of Economic thought. 


My nephew recently, graduated with an Economics degree from NYU, when I had a discussion with him about what I found with my daughters classes at GPC and GSU. Of course all set by political appointees of the Regents to the University System. 


This is a big beware. 


I remember when I first moved down here. A cousin had moved with kids in High School to hall county and they couldn't believe their text books did not say the North had won the Civil War. Hell yes, the Union won the Civil war. That is why the Northern triangle is 2/3 Northern's imported the corporations. They are the most high dollar communities of Atlanta. We are the ones who told Deal to veto craziness yesterday. 

NewName
NewName

ie. It did nothing as the Southern states had already seceded. Stop painting Lincoln as such a hero, when he clearly said he would do anything it t


ook to save the Union, including allowing for slavery. Also, why in the world are we still celebrating and studying Columbus Day?!?!?!@class80olddog @redweather @dcdcdc @Another comment 


Pineywoodsbill
Pineywoodsbill

I'm glad you liked NY. In the words of that great western philosopher, Lewis Grizzard. "Delta is ready when you are".

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Another comment to net it out....Liberal indoctrination, good.  Conservative indoctrination, bad.


Got it.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog @redweather @dcdcdc @Another comment Actually it didn't even free them in all the south.  Only in the areas that the union didn't control.  So the slaves in New Orleans, Northern Virginia and much of Tennessee (all controlled by the Union on 1/1/1863) were not freed.