Those who forget the past
In the early 1990s, the National Endowment for the Humanities and Department of Education moved to create a set of national history standards, which ended up being controversial for their content and presentation of material. (NEH chairman Lynne Cheney, who helped launch and pay for this initiative, later called the resulting standards “grim and gloomy” because they favored political correctness over accurate historical presentation.) Could this happen again? A new group of experts (unnamed, as of yet) from eighteen states recently gathered to discuss common standards for social studies. And red flags are rightfully being raised. For starters, this initiative is not one borne of the states themselves—as were the ELA and math common-core standards. Further, this focus on the amorphous and interdisciplinary “social studies” is sure to block any disciplinary rigor or intellectual integrity from entering the would-be standards. As Lynne Munson of Common Core points out, the group’s “sole product so far is a one-sentence definition of social studies—so concerned with inclusiveness that it contains eleven commas.” If and when states come together to create smart and specific U.S. history, or economics, or world history, or civics standards, count Gadfly on board. But to these vague umbrella standards, he says, “Buzz off.”
“Specialists Weigh Common Social Studies Standards,” by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week, May 18, 2011.“Next! Social Studies,” by Lynne Munson, Common Core Blog, May 18, 2011.
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