The proposed new social standards by The NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) were sent to teachers for their comments in a recent survey. Below is one question and a teacher’s response for a 4th grade standard that is supposed to teach North Carolina history. The question exemplifies the tone of the entire standard.
Do the standards support students’ cultural self-awareness – the recognition of one’s social identities and the ways in which those identities interact to shapesense of self and experiences (Goodman, 2011).
First, I want to point out the grammatical error in this sentence. It should be punctuated with a question mark, not a period. Second, the title of fourth-grade social studies’ course of study is North Carolina History. This question does not address the lack of specific information in the standards. If we are revising a draft of social studies standards, we should not be focusing on the cultural self-awareness of a student. I am not even sure exactly what that entails or means. We should be focusing on what the title suggests, NC History. The standards leave it up to the teacher to choose which events or people they prefer to teach about without a clear, concise plan. This survey leads me to believe that we are not concerned with what students learn, but how students feel. 4.H.1 states, “Summarize North Carolina’s role in major conflicts and events throughout history of America.” Leaving the specifics up to a teacher or LEA who have only been educated in elementary education is ludicrous. Elementary teachers are taught how to teach in college, they are not taught content knowledge. Therefore, the teachers would need to rely on the NC Standards of Social Studies to ensure they are teaching major conflicts and events throughout American history, instead of choosing which ones they feel most relevant or which events/conflicts are most familiar to them.
Do the standards support students’ engagement in ongoing self-examination to excavate how one’s identities inform their understandings of and experiences with complex social problems (Mitchell, 2015).
If you responded that the standards do not support students’ engagement in ongoing self-examination of how a person’s identity informs their understandings of and experiences with complex social problems, please explain.
Again, the punctuation is wrong for the previous page’s sentence. It is interrogative instead of declarative.
Self-examination involves studying one’s own behavior and motivation. I am unsure as to how the subject area of the fourth-grade social studies standards dictates the self-examination of a student’s behavior and motivations. Students in fourth grade were born in 2009 or 2010. During this time, they were unable to take part in history that occurred in NC from Native Americans, colonization, the Revolutionary War, etc. A self-examination should not be the goal of any social studies program. For example, we could look at the forced migration of the Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears. In fourth grade, students can understand the hardships that the Cherokees endured, but this should not be taught to a fourth-grader that it was their responsibility for this “complex social problem” because they live on the same land four-hundred+ years later. The subject is North Carolina History, this event happened in the past and no one is responsible for it today and thankfully it is not a part of a “person’s identity” today. Again, the teacher should not choose which conflicts, events, and people are significant enough to learn in the classroom.
The fourth-grade, History of NC standards, and the “cultural repertoire” is mentioned throughout as “diverse or various” perspectives. These various and diverse perspectives seem limited to women, indigenous, and racial perspectives. There are certainly more perspectives than this and how do the teachers know which perspectives they should read, study, and teach to the students? Second, this “cultural repertoire of diverse and various perspectives and communities in both traditional and evolving ways”. What does this mean by evolving? How can something that is “evolving” be a part of history? History is the study of past events, not something that is changing over time as the word, “evolving” alludes to.
Stereotypes according to the standards are to be noted. For example, in standard, 4.H.1, minorities, indigenous groups, and marginalized people are to be distinguished. Pointing out stereotypes perpetuates them.