America needs new social studies standards, to teach our children America’s history and ideals. If education reformers don’t act now, Woke social studies standards will teach a slanderous caricature of our history that prepares students to work to replace our republic with an illiberal regime.
That’s why 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. American Birthright has been released the week before July 4, to honor Independence Day.
State standards are the most influential documents in America’s education system. State education departments use them to provide guidance to each public K-12 school district and charter school as they create their own courses. State standards also influence what textbook authors write and what 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’ individual lesson plans. Private schools and homeschool parents also keep an eye on state standards.
The Civics Alliance wants to improve every aspect of American social studies instruction by inspiring America’s state education departments to provide social studies standards that teach American students their birthright of liberty.
Every American student should be educated to be another Harry Truman — a high-school graduate who, without ever graduating from college, has a solid grasp of history and is capable of serving as an officer, a judge, a senator, and president.
Yet some state education departments are set on imposing state social studies standards that combine misguided pedagogical theory, low academic standards, and anti-American animus. America at large has suffered from their success. Too many Americans have emerged from our schools ignorant of America’s history, indifferent to liberty, and estranged from their country. We must restore American social studies instruction centered on liberty if we are to restore the American republic to good health.
Americans of all parties want to take back their schools. The Civics Alliance wrote American Birthright to equip governors, state legislators, school boards, and grassroots activists for that fight. Every American needs to know what a proper social studies instruction should be.
American Birthright provides the comprehensive content knowledge in history, geography, civics, and economics that schools should teach in each grade from pre-kindergarten through high school. Each grade’s learning standards describe what students should be expected to learn — knowledge such as the location of the Battle of Yorktown, the concept of separation of powers, and the causes of World War II. American Birthright frames instruction and assessment to ensure that students learn content knowledge rather than hollow mastery of abstract skills. American Birthright integrates the upper-level learning standards with an extensive series of primary source documents.
A sequence of courses through Grade 7 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. American Birthright then provides a two-year Western Civilization sequence in Grades 8 and 9, because American students need to know the origins of our ideals and institutions of freedom. It offers a rigorous Grade 10 World History course so that students will learn core knowledge about the different civilizations of humanity. American Birthright culminates in United States History and Civics to underscore that social studies should be taught to sustain American 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.
Above all, American Birthright teaches about the expansion of American liberty to include all Americans, the contributions that Americans from every walk of life have made to our shared history of liberty, and America’s championship of liberty throughout the world. Students will learn of heroes of liberty such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ronald Reagan.
The Civics Alliance crafted rigorous standards to make it straightforward for policymakers to create equally rigorous equivalents with different priorities, whether by abbreviating some topics and primary source readings, expanding others, or adjusting the course sequences. States and school districts should and will modify American Birthright in detail.
American children should be equipped to continue the work bequeathed to them by the Founders — to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. The Civics Alliance offers American Birthright to help its fellow Americans to craft the standards, the curricula, the textbooks, and the lessons that will sustain our republic and our nation.
David Randall is Executive Director of the Civics Alliance and Director of Research for the National Association of Scholars.