American Birthright: Action Suggestions for State Policymakers

American Birthright: Action Suggestions for State Policymakers

State policymakers (governors, state senators, and state representatives) play a crucial role in improving state social studies standards. They must work for reform, however, partly by means of state education departments, which, in most states, have been delegated authority over much state education policy. They also should work for reform in ways that respects the power of school districts to set their own curriculum.

We provide below a series of Action Suggestions for State Policymakers. We do so modestly, because we are keenly aware that state policymakers know their state and their business better than we do. (Indeed, we would welcome suggestions from any state policymakers about how to refine our advice.) We hope, nevertheless, that these suggestions will be useful to policymakers who wish to introduce American Birthright into their states—or to forward any sort of education reform.

Personnel

  • Governors should appoint Superintendents who are dedicated to the cause of social studies standards reform, and who will themselves appoint more reformers to the state education department. Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) forwarded social studies standards reform by appointing Richard Corcoran as Education Commissioner, while the bipartisan Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education did likewise by appointing Dr. Cade Brumley as State Superintendent of Education.
  • State legislators should communicate to governors that they would favor appointments of individuals who will press for social studies standards reform.
  • Governors and state legislators should assemble lists of education reformers who will champion social studies standards reform, to be ready for appointment as Superintendents, and throughout the state education department.

Social Studies Standards Revision

Some states have regular academic standards revision processes; others depend on legislative or gubernatorial initiative for academic standards revision.

  • State policymakers should inform themselves about the particular standards revision process in their state. They should communicate with state education departments to discover what is the precise nature of the process in their state, so they may exert effective influence on the process of social studies standards revision.
  • State policymakers should inform themselves about the state education department’s selection of committee members to determine the revision of social studies standards. State policymakers should make sure that these committees include champions of social studies education reform, and ideally champions of American Birthright.
  • State policymakers should inform themselves in each stage of the review process of the contents of draft revised social studies standards, keep their constituents informed about these contents, and encourage public participation and input. In 2021-2022, the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education accepted public comments throughout the social studies standard revision process. These comments from concerned citizens provided crucial support for improved social studies standards as Louisiana developed its “Freedom Framework” Content Standards. State policymakers should facilitate similar public comment in favor of American Birthright.
  • State policymakers should communicate their preference for American Birthright, and similar reformed education standards that focus on Americans’ shared history of liberty and republican self-government, in letters to education departments, in committees where they seek testimony from education department personnel, in public debate in the state legislature, and in public speeches. By all these means they should exert influence on state education departments, to encourage them to incorporate as much as possible of American Birthright into the state’s revised social studies standards.
  • State policymakers should use American Birthright particularly as a counter-model to draft social studies standards, or existing social studies standards, which do not serve their state well. They can use American Birthright to make critiques in detail of misguided standards—but American Birthright can be more effective as a counter-model as a whole. State policymakers should use American Birthright as a way to say, Why don’t you start over entirely the process of drafting social studies standards?
  • State policymakers should inform grassroots activists of occasions for public testimony on behalf of American Birthright. The Civics Alliance will be glad to provide testimony on behalf of American Birthright, but we know that such testimony is more effective when complemented by similar testimony from state citizens.
  • State policymakers should be willing to initiate special means for social studies standards revision. In South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem first halted the regular social studies revision process and set aside the existing draft standards. She then appointed a special commission, whose personnel largely came from outside South Dakota’s education establishment. Whenever it is an appropriate means to forward social studies standards reform, state policymakers should follow Governor Noem’s example.

Other Education Department Social Studies Materials and Regulations

State education departments produce a great deal of material and regulations tied to social studies standards, including model curricula, curriculum frameworks, licensure requirements, teacher training, resources, and assessments. State policymakers should follow up on work to reform social studies standards with work to ensure that all these social studies materials also have been reformed to align with American Birthright.

Social Studies Standards Legislation

We particularly recommend to state policymakers to consider several of the Civics Alliance’s model bills, from our Model K-12 Civics Code. These bills, which align with American Birthright, would forward social studies standards reform at the level appropriate to statute law.

  • American Birthright Taskforce Act. The American Birthright Taskforce Act establishes a commission to draft social studies standards based on American Birthright.
  • Partisanship Out of Civics Act. The Partisanship Out of Civics Act prevents teachers from giving credit to action civics or any other sort of public policy advocacy in history, government, civics, or social studies. It also bars civics classes from using the discriminatory ideology at the heart of Critical Race Theory.
  • Social Studies Curriculum Act. The Social Studies Curriculum Act mandates K-12 instruction in Economics, State History, United States History, Civics, and Western Civilization.
  • Civics Course Act. The Civics Course Act mandates a year-long high school civics course, including requirements to study the primary documents of the American founding and bans on action civics and the components of Critical Race Theory.
  • United States History Act. The United States History Act mandates a year-long high school United States History course, including requirements to study the primary documents of American history and bans on action civics and the components of Critical Race Theory.
  • Western Civilization Act. The Western Civilization Act mandates a year-long high school Western Civilization course, including requirements to study the primary documents of Western Civilization and bans on action civics and the components of Critical Race Theory.
  • Civics Literacy Act. The Civics Literacy Act requires high school students, as a condition of graduation, to pass the U.S. Civics Test given to immigrants who wish to be naturalized.
  • Historical Documents Act. The Historical Documents Act mandates instruction in historical documents and the liberty to use historical documents.

Teacher Training Legislation

Social studies standards reform ultimately depends upon educating a body of social studies teachers who are equipped to teach American Birthright. State policymakers also should work to reform their public universities and their education schools, to ensure that they will produce this body of social studies teachers. We recommend that state policymakers consider several of the Civics Alliance’s model bills, from our Model Higher Education Code. These bills, which also align with American Birthright, would forward teacher training reform at the level appropriate to statute law.

  • School of Intellectual Freedom Act. The School of Intellectual Freedom Act creates an autonomous School of Intellectual Freedom (SIF) at the flagship institution of the state public university system, with the administrative autonomy that allows it to teach courses on the nature of intellectual freedom, the Western heritage, and the American heritage.
  • Core Curriculum Act. The Core Curriculum Act establishes general education requirements in Western and American Heritage, and removes politicized course requirements by linking standard general education requirements, a core transfer curriculum, a dual enrollment system, and a dual credit system.
  • American History Act. The American History Act adds an American History and Government general education requirement to public universities.
  • Heritage Certificates Act  The Heritage Certificates Act requires public universities to develop a Western Heritage Certificate Program and an American Heritage Certificate Program, and integrates the two Certificates into Education bachelor’s degree requirements and teacher licensure requirements.

School Districts

American Birthright can and should be adopted at the school district level. State policymakers should inform school board members and school district administrators of the existence of American Birthright, and encourage them to adopt it.

Publicity & Cooperation With Grassroots Efforts

We recommend that state policymakers work to publicize American Birthright to their constituents, and to work with grassroots activists to inspire public efforts in favor of American Birthright. We believe that joint efforts by policymakers and the public will be more effective in promoting social studies standards reform keyed around American Birthright.

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