American Birthright: A Better Standard

What Makes American Birthright Different?

American Birthright draws upon several sources, of which the two most important are the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework (2003) and the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Social Studies, 2021 Revised Civics and Government Strand (2021). American Birthright’s Expert Consultants also substantially revised American Birthright from these sources. American Birthright possesses several distinct virtues, both drawn from these sources and as a result of its revision process.

Focus on Liberty

American Birthright teaches students to identify the ideals, institutions, and individual examples of human liberty, individualism, religious freedom, and republican self-government; assess the extent to which civilizations have fulfilled these ideals; and describe how the evolution of these ideals in different times and places has contributed to the formation of modern American ideals.

Broad Appeal

American Birthright has been designed to appeal to a broad majority of Americans. We chose the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework (2003) as our model not least because it was developed by a highly reputable team of experts, addressed the concerns of Massachusetts teachers and Education Department staff, and received final approval from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We have revised American Birthright so that it will also provide social studies standards that satisfy more conservative Americans, but our source framework passed muster in Massachusetts in 2003. We believe that American Birthright’s Massachusetts framework, revised in detail to accommodate the desires of more conservative Americans, provides a broadly appealing and broadly acceptable model for social studies standards.

Flexibility

American Birthright is designed so that states and school districts can alter the sequence as they see fit. States and school districts can create equally rigorous standards by abbreviating some topics, expanding others, or adjusting the course sequences. They also can integrate United States History instruction with instruction in regional, state, and local history. States and school districts that adjust the course sequence can make age-appropriate adjustment to the learning standards.

Teacher Freedom

American Birthright does not provide an entire curriculum. Teachers are free to teach each topic as they see fit, to add new topics, to incorporate independent lesson plans and sequences, and to unite items from these learning standards into thematic units. They also are free to reorganize the sequence in which they teach these topics, as well as to review material from earlier grades in any course of instruction.

Clear Format

American Birthright emphasizes clarity far more than rival social studies standards. We have eliminated the tangle of skills and crosswalks and concentrated on facts to learn, presented in a simple list of factual items. Each grade’s standards are written in bullet points and it contains only four social studies disciplines. We also eliminated all electives and provided one K-12 sequence of courses. American Birthright’s straightforward structure makes it easy for teachers to use and easy for parents to hold teachers accountable for how well they teach social studies. We expect the states and school districts to modify the sequence we offer—but they can do so knowing with absolute clarity what is the total social studies education we believe they should provide.

Reliable Assessment

American Birthright’s intensive content standards facilitate reliable assessment, whether by national companies such as the Educational Testing Service (ETS), state-level testing, or tests by school districts and individual teachers. Its content standards provide enough material to make it easy both for teachers and for large organizations such as ETS to create tests that accurately assess student knowledge.

Patriotic Elementary School Education

American Birthright incorporated a patriotic emphasis in the K-6 standards from the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Social Studies, 2021 Revised Civics and Government Strand (2021). Many social studies standards use a misguided pedagogy, which assumes that children should learn first about the community, then about the state, then about the nation. Advocates of this pedagogy underestimate the ability of young children to understand the symbols, the nature, and the virtues of America—and, in consequence, they fail to provide students the necessary early education in Americans’ common heritage of freedom. Florida’s excellent 2021 Revised Civics and Government Strand used a proper pedagogy to teach K-6 students about America, and we have incorporated Florida’s patriotic emphasis into American Birthright.

Western Civilization

American Birthright’s greatest departure from current social studies standards is the two-year Western Civilization sequence in Grades 8-9. Virtually every state has quietly abandoned teaching Western Civilization and substituted a vague, frequently politicized World History course. American students no longer learn the coherent narrative of the ideals and institutions of liberty embedded in the history of Western Civilization—a narrative that students must learn if they are to understand the intellectual background of the Founding Fathers, and of Americans who continued to expand liberty in the following centuries. American Birthright champions the two-year Western Civilization sequence and calls on the states to restore it to their social studies standards.

World History

American Birthright also provides a better World History education than current social studies standards. We provide a thorough education in World Geography in Grade 6, which also includes an introduction to the cultures and histories of the different regions. Grade 10 World History, the hinge between the Grades 8-9 Western Civilization sequence and the Grades 11-12 United States History and Civics sequence, provides a thorough history of each of the major world civilizations—one which teaches students the details of each region’s history, rather than homogenizing them into a shallow “global” history that teaches nothing that is interesting or distinctive about the history of the world.

Thorough High School Sequence

American Birthright provides a four-year sequence for high school: one year apiece of Western Civilization, World History, United States History, and Civics. This sequence provides a thorough education in Western Civilization, World History, and United States History—Western Civilization first, to learn the origins of liberty, World History next, to learn the other civilizations of the world, and finally United States history, taught when students will understand America’s place in Western Civilization and World History. The high school sequence culminates in the capstone, intensive twelfth-grade course of Civics.

Primary Sources

American Birthright builds upon the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework (2003), which provided a series of suggested primary sources for the high school United States history course. We believe that students need primary sources throughout their education, and not just a textbook education, so that students can read the documents of liberty directly and know how human beings understood their own times. American Birthright therefore provides a series of primary sources for Grades 8-12 and encourages teachers to provide abbreviated primary source readings in the lower grades.

Equal Opportunity

Disadvantaged students benefit from intensive content instruction even more than better-off students, who receive large amounts of content knowledge from their families and peers. Content standards that focus on skills and abbreviate content foster an unequal society because they especially harm the education of disadvantaged children. American Birthright’s intensive content standards fulfill America’s promise of equal educational opportunities for everyone.

Social Studies For All Americans

American Birthright provides social studies for all Americans. Far too many education professionals work consciously or unconsciously to minimize, delegitimize, or eliminate the history and the ideals of conservative Americans—and, indeed, the history and the ideals of moderate Americans and of classical liberals. We proudly incorporate that history and those ideals. We believe we are carrying out the charge of The President’s Advisory 1776 Commission in The 1776 Report, “to teach future generations of Americans an accurate history of our country so that we all learn and cherish our founding principles once again.”

We also frame our history to reject the radical, divisive, and discriminatory identity-politics embodied in such pedagogies as Critical Race Theory. Rather, students will learn in American Birthright that America’s ideals, embodied in the steady expansion of liberty that animates our wonderful country’s history, bar no race, sex, or creed. They also will learn the contributions that Americans from every walk of life have made to our shared history of liberty, and of America’s championship of liberty throughout the world. Students will learn of great Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ronald Reagan—and learn that we Americans today can build on our shared affection and reverence for these champions of freedom to work together to preserve our nation and our republic, and to deepen yet further our country’s commitment to its ideals of liberty. 

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