By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — The state’s controversial plan to teach U.S. History students an abbreviated version of our nation’s past may now be history itself.
Dr. Rebecca Garland, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s chief academic officer, told state leaders this week that a second proposal is already in the works and high on the list would be the idea of splitting the course into two: one that would cover the years up to 1877 and another from 1877 to present. The announcement follows the DPI’s receipt of more than 7,000 e-mails protesting the initial draft, which called for U.S. History class to pick up with 1877.
“I’m looking forward to taking that draft off the Web site,” Garland told the Education Legislative Joint Committee on Tuesday, describing the option as “dead on arrival.”
Public outcry included a letter from Senate leader Marc Basnight to State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, who has for weeks defended the ill-fated plan saying students would study U.S. history in the 10th grade Civics and Economics course. That class would, in fact, include mention of the nation’s founding documents among many other topics designed to help students become “responsible and effective citizens in an interdependent world,” an approach few would consider a substitute for more than two centuries of our country’s development.
Others pushing the state’s initial plan — one of many “essential standards” recommendations from ACRE, the Accountability and Curriculum Reform Effort — said students would get enough U.S. history in earlier grades including fifth-grade social studies. The plan would have sixth-graders focusing on World Civilizations (Beginning of Human Society to the mid 1700s); seventh-graders studying State, Nation and World (1600s to early 1970s) and eighth-graders concentrating on The Global Community (1950s to present).
But critics pointed out that expecting students to remember what they learned in fifth grade and then apply it in 11th grade is unrealistic and that elementary students introduced to U.S. history should encounter it again when they are old enough to put higher-order thinking into play.
“We are glad to see DPI responding and not waiting until the public comment deadline to promise a better plan,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
One option that may be offered is to split the course into two periods (prior to 1877 and 1877 to present), requiring the recent history course in high school and allowing local school districts to choose when to teach the earlier history class.
“We strongly urge DPI to require both courses in high school as history needs to be taught as a continuum and students need to examine our nation’s past when they are old enough to grasp deeper meaning than is possible when they are in elementary school,” Creech added.
“We will be on the lookout for the next draft to be posted in April and hope that it includes enough class time for teachers to cover this properly. With block scheduling, two high school semesters of U.S. History is not too much to ask.”
Note of Thanks: The Christian Action League wants to thank everyone who took action on this matter by letting their concerns be known to the NCDPI. In cooperation with our friends from the American Family Association, approximately 3000 emails were sent in response to our reports and encouragements to act.