(Boston, MA) A new study authored by a Founding-era historian, a content expert, and a high school history teacher with standards-writing experience finds that the Common Core will further damage history instruction by including U.S. History in its English language arts (ELA) standards.
“Imperiling the Republic: The Fate of U.S. History Instruction under Common Core,” published by Pioneer Institute, analyzes literacy standards for U.S. History that are included as part of Common Core’s English language arts standards.
“Common Core dramatically reduces the amount of classic American literature and poetry students will read in favor of non-fiction or so-called ‘informational texts,'” said co-author Sandra Stotsky who sat on the Common Core State Standards ELA validation committee. “Consequently, the writers of the national standards attempted to shoehorn little bits and pieces of decontextualized U.S. History texts into the English standards. The simultaneous result damages instruction for both English and U.S. History classrooms.”
The co-authors of the Pioneer paper urge schools to instead offer separate standards and classes for English and U.S. History. There is little, if any, research to support the efficacy of English teachers being expected to teach U.S. History or informational texts.
Common Core’s standards writers also call for the “cold reading” of historical documents without any background knowledge to place them in the appropriate historical context. David Coleman, the principal author of the Common Core ELA standards, says that excluding texts’ historical context helps “level the playing field.”
Coleman is now president of the College Board, which has issued a new Advanced Placement (A.P.) U.S. History curriculum. The College Board’s A.P. curriculum is a continuation of the “progressive education” approach, which took hold after World War II, that limits history instruction and replaces it with social studies courses about current events and problems.
The College Board’s new A.P. U.S. History curriculum also mirrors the ideological biases of progressive education. It begins with a series of negative and divisive themes that are heavily focused on the balkanizing formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identity politics.
“It’s like the bad and the ugly of American history, without any of the good,” said co-author Anders Lewis who teaches history and heads the art and history department at the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
For example, there are no themes on federalism, separation of powers, the Federalist Papers, or the Gettysburg Address. The curriculum doesn’t ask teachers to teach about Benjamin Franklin and contains no mention of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. The events of September 11, 2001 are never referred to as a terrorist attack.
“Federalism as an essential principle of American government stands as the creative organizing concept that allows the fulfillment of the basic ideals of republicanism, liberty, and the public good,” said Founding-era historian and co-author Ralph Ketcham who is professor emeritus in History, Public Affairs, and Political Science at Syracuse University.. “Any set of K-12 standards or curriculum that sidesteps or excludes this constitutional and civic reality damages students’ understanding of our republic and its history.”
The co-authors recommend that local education governing bodies replace the College Board’s new A.P. U.S. History curriculum with the common civic core spelled out in Educating Democracy, which was published in 2003 by the Albert Shanker Institute.
Progressive education in general and its move away from teaching history have produced poor results. By 2010, only 12 percent of high school seniors scored proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics tests. NAEP has since eliminated the 4th and 12th grade civics tests.