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There’s an interesting discussion going on in the Get Schooled blog at the AJC. What a great exercise of The First Amendment! I am always refreshed to see a robust dialogue even though we may disagree. Here’s some clarity on a few issues.
The t-shirt has been around since last November. Last May and July, I wrote articles about The Bill of Rights.
As indicated, I am not a fan of Georgia’s K-5 Social Studies curriculum. My specific critiques remain these:
1. I think it is inappropriate to teach children about expanding rights and freedoms before discussing the freedoms and rights as documented in and protected by The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Expanding rights is discussed in third grade but The Constitution and Bill of Rights are not in the standards until fourth grade.
In third grade: SS3H2: The student will discuss the lives of Americans who expanded people’s rights and freedoms in a democracy.
a. Paul Revere (independence), Frederick Douglass (civil rights), Susan B. Anthony (women’s rights), Mary McLeod Bethune (education), Franklin D. Roosevelt (New Deal and World War II), Eleanor Roosevelt (United Nations and human rights), Thurgood Marshall (civil rights), Lyndon B. Johnson (Great Society and voting rights), and César Chávez (workers’ rights).
b. Explain social barriers, restrictions, and obstacles that these historical figures had to overcome and describe how they overcame them.
In fourth grade: SS4H5: The student will analyze the challenges faced by the new nation….
a. Identify the major leaders of the Constitutional Convention (James Madison and Benjamin Franklin) and describe the major issues they debated, including the rights of states, the Great Compromise, and slavery.
b. Identify the three branches of the U. S. government as outlined by the Constitution, describe what they do, how they relate to each other (checks and balances and separation of power), and how they relate to the states.
c. Identify and explain the rights in the Bill of Rights, describe how the Bill of Rights places limits on the power of government, and explain the reasons for its inclusion in the Constitution in 1791.
2. The standards are clearly being used to promote a social agenda. Why is this necessary? Can we not simply teach American history without inserting “the lives of Americans who expanded people’s rights”? By using that framework, the standards are open to legitimate criticism regarding who is “in” and who is “out”.
3. The discussion about “expanding rights” and social movements does not belong in third grade. The lessons represent an overly simplified view of the implications (good, bad and indifferent) because they are directed at eight and nine year olds. The subject matter needs context and robust discussions that can only happen with older children.
As some have pointed out, teachers can enrich the curriculum. That’s true. I have had two children experience this curriculum so far; both with excellent teachers. I’ve seen the textbooks, the homework and the projects as they relate to the third grade curriculum. They have all reinforced the agenda being taught.
There’s nothing new here but I am thrilled that this subject is getting the attention it deserves. The t-shirt is meant to be fun and bring up the discussion about how we teach The Bill of Rights in Georgia.
– Nancy Jester