Tracking the SBOE Rewrites to History Curriculum

In their January meeting, State Board of Education members came armed with more amendments to the state social studies curriculum than they could vote on — a process hardly helped by the acrimony between the board’s socially conservative bloc and more moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats. And so the SBOE kicked the process of revising the standards down the road to this week’s meeting, where social studies rewrites will resume today.

Because of the flood of amendments under consideration, we’ve produced this annotated version of the high school U.S. history standards, which have been the focus of controversy. You can see exactly what the board has added, deleted and rewritten, along with our analysis of the current arguments and historical context behind each change.

Expect more at today’s meeting of what we saw two months ago: Many edits from the conservative bloc, with attendant gnashing of teeth from both their opponents and supporters. If previous meetings are any guide, scores of impassioned speakers from diverse statewide constituencies will address the board on what has become the state’s highest-profile battleground in the never-ending culture wars. At issue: the inclusion of minorities, particularly Hispanics; the balance between liberal and conservative; the clash between “pro-America” proponents and those who accuse them of a historical “whitewash”; the concept of American exceptionalism; the proper role of religion; and, yes, even country music versus hip-hop.

Speaking of religion, the conservative board members have yet to pass any substantial amendments injecting their Christian fundamentalism into the history standards — despite rampant fears from critics and intense national press attention on that prospect. But what the members will do from here is anybody’s guess. Since the last meeting, board member and former chair Don McLeroy — the most aggressive amender of curriculum and a self-proclaimed “religious fanatic” who believes education is “too important not to politicize” — narrowly lost the Republican primary to lobbyist Thomas Ratliff, a moderate who campaigned on a platform of depoliticizing the board. But don’t expect McLeroy, who will serve the remainder of this year, to limp out like a lame duck. Asked whether the election results would affect his plans for the social studies curriculum, he said, “Gosh no. I had some tremendous opposition, and a lot of people working against me, and I still almost won. The fact that I would change would be silly.

“The people who write about there being a tilt to the right in the curriculum never write about the tilt to the left, because they just don’t see it,” McLeroy said. “The reason why there’s so many more amendments to the social studies curriculum than to other subjects is because the balance was lacking. The populists, the progressives, the Great Society, all that stuff is from the left. … This country was founded on conservative, limited-government principles.”

Click here to see the full annotation.

 

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