As conversations about teaching critical intricacies of race, gender and identity as well as historical and systemic discrimination to 5-year-olds continue to catch fire as if it was actually happening, there’s been a watchful eye on North Carolina’s recently approved social studies standards, which is definitely real.
Although the standards were approved in late February, the North Carolina Board of Education voted on the accompanying documents — crosswalks and glossary and strand maps (oh my!) — that would help school systems, districts and teachers implement the new standards this 2021-22 school year.
The board approved the documents on a 7-3 vote, Olivia Oxendine, Amy White and Todd Chasteen dissenting. Republicans Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who also voted against the standards in February, were not in attendance.
The meeting was delayed by two weeks so Oxendine could get clarification on what the definition of is is, and so the Department of Public Instruction staff could provide citations of definitions in the glossary.
At the June 17 meeting, Oxendine was unsatisfied with the exclusion of Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice and the exclusion of the fight for rights of people with disabilities. Valid points, but she seemed to miss the point that teachers have brains too.
A point that Superintendent Cathy Truitt, also a Republican, reiterated: The approved documents are just suggestions meant to serve as guidelines for curriculum and lesson plans. Teachers are allowed to use whichever examples they please to achieve the objective, she said. It’s as if Truitt has some trust in the teachers and principals who work, day in and day out for the education of their students. Go figure.
Crosswalks — which compare objectives in the new standards to objectives in the old standards — were provided for each grade. So if the old standards gave the objective to “understand North Carolina government,” the new standards would delve into how NC government was founded and shaped, as well as how women, indigenous, religious and racial groups influence local and state government. The idea is to give teachers less leeway in omitting these historically marginalized groups.
Just in case this sounds like “critical race theory,” don’t worry, this isn’t for the kindergarteners; this is fourth grade level. You know, the sophisticates. This isn’t pitting people of color against white folks. It’s being honest about the history of this country, and it isn’t always a pretty picture.
K-5 unpacking documents also were approved. These unpacking documents give teachers a clearer understanding of how to engage with the new standards and enhance student comprehension of each objective.
Unpacking documents for grades 6-12 are up for approval in July. There is an effort in the North Carolina legislature to delay implementation until the 2022-23 school year, but the bill didn’t pass the senate and is now back in committee.
The approved and pending documents are not required, per board policy, to implement the new social studies standards.