Grassroots activists should be prepared to argue in favor of American Birthright in any venue. The Activists’ Brief provides a comprehensive outline of the arguments in favor of American Birthright.
States and school districts should create social studies standards modeled on American Birthright because it teaches American students their birthright of liberty.
What Is American Birthright?
The Civics Alliance, a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to improving America’s civics education, has created American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards to teach America’s foundational history of liberty. American Birthright helps Americans to craft the social studies standards, curricula, textbooks, and lesson plans we need to sustain our republic and our nation.
Why Do State Social Studies Standards Matter?
State academic content standards are the most influential documents in American education. They shape what public school districts and charter schools teach. They also influence what textbook authors write, and what knowledge assessment companies (such as the College Board) test for in their Advanced Placement examinations. They affect teacher training and they provide the framework for teachers’ lesson plans.
What’s Wrong With Existing State Social Studies Standards?
Too many state education departments and educators impose standards that combine misguided pedagogical theory, low academic standards, and anti-American animus. They educate young Americans who are ignorant of America’s history, indifferent to liberty, and estranged from their country. Americans must restore social studies instruction centered on freedom, so as to educate a new generation of Americans to secure the blessings of liberty.
American Birthright: The Standard for Liberty
American Birthright inspires America’s state education departments to provide social studies standards that teach American students their birthright of liberty. It also equips governors, state legislators, school boards, and grassroots activists to take back their schools, by providing a model for what a proper social studies instruction should be. Americans can use it to challenge the education establishment: Why don’t you teach this?
American Birthright: Principled Standards for All Americans
American Birthright appeals to a broad majority of Americans because it does not pursue a narrow, partisan agenda. Yet it does not pursue consensus for its own sake. Too much of America’s educational establishment has abandoned America’s bedrock principles. American Birthright always tells America’s story of liberty clearly and proudly instead of searching for a hollow consensus with an educational establishment fixated on removing that story from our classrooms.
The Story of 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.
The Subjects of Liberty
American Birthright provides comprehensive content knowledge in History, Geography, Civics, and Economics. History teaches us where our liberty came from. Geography allows us to trace the story of liberty on the map. Civics teaches us how citizens act to ensure our government works to maintain our liberty. Economics teaches us about the freedom to buy and to sell—the freedom in private life that is the essential buttress to political liberty.
The Themes of Liberty
American Birthright provides sustained coverage of Western Civilization, World History, United States History, and Civics. Within those four main areas, students learn throughout about the role in history of Liberty; Faith and Nations; Science and Technology; Economics; State and Society; and Culture. All these lessons teach them to understand the exceptional but fragile achievement embodied in the creation and preservation of the American republic.
Grades K-7: Patriotic Introduction
American Birthright provides a basic sequence of courses from Kindergarten through Grade 7 that introduces students to the geography, history, and government of their towns, states, country, and world, as well as an introduction to economics. This sequence centers its instruction on America’s symbols, geography, history, and government.
Grades 8-12: The History of Liberty
American Birthright provides an advanced sequence of courses in Grades 8 through 12 on Ancient and Classical Mediterranean Civilizations, the Development of Western Civilization, World History, United States History, and Civics. This coherent sequence culminates in United States History and Civics, to emphasize the point that social studies instruction should sustain American liberty.
The Documents of Liberty
American Birthright integrates the upper-level learning standards with an extensive series of primary source documents. Students should learn the actual materials of history and not just textbook interpretations, which often distort the past. American Birthright provides these documents for the upper grades and encourages teachers to integrate them into instruction for the lower grades.
Just the Facts
American Birthright’s learning standards are facts to learn. American Birthright sketches methodologies for History, Geography, Civics, and Economics, as well as pedagogical rules of thumb (Facts, Primary Sources, Rigor, Historical Integrity, Impartiality, Individuals Matter, Contingency, Humility, Broadmindedness, and Charitable Interpretation), butAmerican Birthright doesn’t require skills instruction. Teachers should choose freely how students learn.
American Birthright supports instruction in virtue. Students learn that Champion liberty for others as you would have them champion liberty for you follows naturally from Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Parents and teachers can build on the facts taught by American Birthright to instill in students a love of virtue to match their love of liberty.
Selection Criterion: Significance for the Story of Liberty
American Birthright doesn’t mention individuals or events to provide representation of any identity-group. It selects individual items to teach students the story of liberty in human history and to describe how the ideals and institutions of liberty have created and shaped America. Any social studies standard should use significance for the story of liberty as its primary selection criterion for individuals and events.
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.
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.
Accountability: Clear Organization
American Birthright has been written so that every American can understand it easily. Each grade’s standards are written in bullet points and it contains only four social studies disciplines. 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.
American Birthright aligns with pedagogies that emphasize rigorous standards, individual effort, classroom instruction, and content knowledge. These pedagogies increase school accountability to parents and policymakers. You can’t tell how well teachers instruct an individual student when they’re assessing group projects, protests, “skills,” or ideological commitments—or when all students pass, no matter how little they’ve learned.
True Preparation for College and Career
American Birthright prepare students for college and career. Good colleges and good jobs require competitive and ambitious Americans with broad background knowledge; the talent to absorb, synthesize and make use of large numbers of facts; the capacity to listen sympathetically to multiple points of view and to engage in free debate; the readiness to be judged for their ability to produce timely and competent work; and independence of conscience and mind.
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.
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.
American Birthright guides proper teacher training. If teachers do not already know this material, it tells them what they need to learn for their professional development. It also guides the teachers of teachers, in colleges and education schools, as they create courses in history, economics, political science, geography, and education.
Out-Competing Critical Race Theory
Attempts to ban Critical Race Theory (CRT) won’t work if education reformers can’t offer anything to replace it. American Birthright provides an alternate, superior model to social studies instruction. American Birthright makes the campaign to remove CRT from K-12 social studies instruction work because it replaces CRT with something better—social studies standards that teach students America’s true history of liberty.
Curricula that align with American Birthright include Hillsdale College’s The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum; Great Hearts Academies’ and Basis Curriculum Schools’ general approach to social studies instruction; 1776 Unites’ focused lesson plans on African-American history; and AAT Education’s forthcoming American history curriculum, designed around Wilfred M. McClay’s U.S. history textbook Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story (2019).
State policymakers should pass legislation to provide proper social studies instruction. These laws should prohibit the use of discriminatory pedagogies and action civics in public K-12 classes; require primary-source based high-schoolinstruction in Western Civilization, United States History, and Civics; require academic standards be approved by state policymakers; and increase the number of required history and civics courses for social studies teachers.