Scholars Blast Shoddy Social Studies Standards

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Historians are heaping scorn on the Texas State Board of Education’s revision of social studies curriculum standards for public schools. A press release yesterday from scholars who sponsored an open letter to the state board — signed by more than 1,200 historians from across the country — highlights scathing comments from professors who have analyzed the proposed standards. Money quote:

Impossibly large. A missed opportunity. Plagiarized work. Straight out of neo-confederacy. Culturally irrelevant. Greek mythology. Scholars from universities across Texas and the nation have analyzed the final draft of the proposed Texas social studies curriculum and find it falls far short of providing even a basic education to Texas school children. Collectively, the scholars call on the state board of education, the media, and the public to refocus attention on that which truly matters—the education of millions of Texas school children over the coming decade.

Shunning past politicized debates, the scholars raise a host of common sense educational issues and address several substantive concerns: the curriculum is shoddy, it is too large for any teacher to handle, it is plagiarized from Wikipedia, it emphasizes memorization and ignores preparation for college and the workplace, its foibles mean that testing companies will end up deciding what Texas children will learn.

The full text of the professor’s comments about the standards is available here. The full press release follows the jump.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2010

Scholars Say the Texas Social Studies Standards Fall Short

Impossibly large. A missed opportunity. Plagiarized work. Straight out of neo-confederacy. Culturally irrelevant. Greek mythology. Scholars from universities across Texas and the nation have analyzed the final draft of the proposed Texas social studies curriculum and find it falls far short of providing even a basic education to Texas school children. Collectively, the scholars call on the state board of education, the media, and the public to refocus attention on that which truly matters—the education of millions of Texas school children over the coming decade.

Shunning past politicized debates, the scholars raise a host of common sense educational issues and address several substantive concerns: the curriculum is shoddy, it is too large for any teacher to handle, it is plagiarized from Wikipedia, it emphasizes memorization and ignores preparation for college and the workplace, its foibles mean that testing companies will end up deciding what Texas children will learn. Selected conclusions include:

  • “We must teach the children that we have in our classrooms. Our social studies curriculum should reflect Texas’s 21st century reality, that it is an urban, post-industrial, multi-ethnic, multicultural, globally-interconnected society” – Jesús F. de la Teja, Texas State University-San Marcos and first State Historian of Texas
  • “In terms of problem solving, analysis, and decision making, the Texas Social Studies standards require nothing more of seniors than they do of kindergarteners” – Keith A. Erekson, University of Texas at El Paso
  • “Parts of the ‘American exceptionalism’ standard were lifted almost verbatim from Wikipedia . . . . Can we all agree that Texas kids deserve better than this? Shouldn’t the State Board of Education be held to a higher standard?” – Michael Soto, Trinity University
  • “I have never encountered ‘nature’s god’ in my studies outside of the coursework taken on Greek mythology. I am curious then, would the entity being referred to here be Dionysus or Pan?” – Christy Woodward Kaupert, San Antonio College
  • “Such striking omissions and deletions suggest a pattern of neglect rather than happenstance or an occasional lapse of judgment” – Emilio Zamora, University of Texas

The full text of the analysis can be accessed online at http://sensiblehistory.blogspot.com/p/analysis.html. Additional information about the review process and an online archive of media coverage is available at http://tekswatch.utep.edu.

Co-chairs for the group:

Emilio Zamora, Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin

Keith A. Erekson, Assistant Professor of History, University of Texas at El Paso

2 Responses to “Scholars Blast Shoddy Social Studies Standards”

  1. Charles Says:

    I would like to slightly correct what TFN just said. If anyone would actually make public the names and professions of the people who signed the letter, I think you will find that they represent not just professional historians but also a broad spectrum of academic professionals in the wider field of social studies. After all, they are social studies TEKS and not just history TEKS. In other words, the people who really know social studies inside-out have all the bases covered for the people of Texas. And now, with apologies to Tennyson, a poem dedicated to the courage and tenacity of the 1200:

    Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Curriculum Death
    Rode the 1200.
    “Forward, the Social Studies Brigade!
    “Charge for the guns!” he said:
    Into the valley of Curriculum Death
    Rode the 1200.

    2.
    “Forward, the Social Studies Brigade!”
    Was there a man dismay’d?
    Not tho’ the soldier knew
    Someone had plundered:
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do and die:
    Into the valley of Curriculum Death
    Rode the 1200.

    3.
    Leo to the right of them,
    McLeroy to the left of them,
    Lowe in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Curriculum Death,
    Into the mouth of Hell
    Rode the 1200.

    4.
    Flash’d all their truth sabres bare,
    Flash’d the truth as they turn’d in air,
    Sabring the gunners there,
    Charging an army, while
    All the world wonder’d:
    Plunged in the battery-smoke
    Right thro’ the line they broke;
    Neocon and Neo-Fundamentalist
    Reel’d from the sabre stroke
    Shatter’d and sunder’d.
    Then they rode back, but not
    Not the 1200.

    5.
    Dunbar to the right of them,
    Mercer to the left of them,
    Cargill behind them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    While horse and hero fell,
    They that had fought so well
    Came thro’ the jaws of Curriculum Death
    Back from the mouth of Hell,
    All that was left of them,
    Left of 1200.

    6.
    When can their glory fade?
    O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
    Honor the charge they made,
    Honor the Social Studies Brigade,
    Noble 1200

  2. Stevenbw Says:

    “Nature’s God”? Maybe Christy Woodward Kaupert of San Antonio College might take a gander at the Declaration of Independence… In the document He is also called the “Creator” and “Divine” and it is to His “Providence” and “protection” to which the signers commit themselves. Hmmm…wonder who’s being spoken of? Pan or Dionysus?

    What a dip.

    You’re a dip for quoting her.

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