If you’re in Virginia, testify in favor of the proposed social studies standards! Ohio state legislators have introduced legislation to establish the Ohio State Social Studies Task Force, which would use American Birthright as its basis. And there is more news, including from New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Tennessee …
Virginia: Proposed Social Studies Standards
The Virginia Board of Education will hold six public hearings about its proposed social studies standards:
Monday, March 13, 2023
2110 Jamestown Rd, Williamsburg
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Piedmont Community College
501 College Drive, Charlottesville
Thursday, March 16, 2023
O. Winston Link & History Museum of Western Virginia
101 Shenandoah Ave NE, Roanoke
Monday, March 20, 2023
Southwest Higher Education Center
1 Partnership Circle, Abingdon
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Robert Russa Moton Museum
900 Griffin Blvd, Farmville
Civics Alliance members can sign up to speak at any of these hearings by clicking here. You can read the proposed standards in full by clicking here. Even if you don’t want to speak, make a point of attending to show your support (there is no pre-registration).
Ohio: State Social Studies Task Force
Ohio state legislators have introduced legislation to clarify and standardize social studies education for Ohio’s primary and secondary schools. The legislation will create the Ohio State Social Studies Task Force, which would consist of nine members appointed by the House speaker, the Senate president, and the governor. The purpose of the task force is to address “vague content statements and disparity of social studies instruction.” The legislation requires the task force to use American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards as the base for a report, along with the founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. This report will allow legislators to implement legislative changes for the 2024–2025 school year. The legislation has not yet been assigned to a committee.
New Mexico: Open Letter Recommendations
NAS and the Civics Alliance wrote an open letter stating that “The New Mexico Public Education Department Must Revise Its Social Studies Standards.” We addressed our comment to the New Mexico State Advisory Committee of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights, which has been asked whether the Standards comport with the New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) prior constitutional obligation to provide an adequate, uniform, and sufficient social studies education to all New Mexico students. We believe that the answer is No, and that the Committee indeed should recommend that NMPED revise its Standards. We would like to emphasize that there are many avenues to education reform, and that a State Advisory Committee of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights, for example, provides a venue to work to address state education departments directly. We urge Civics Alliance members to think creatively about possible means to push social studies reform.
Rhode Island:Taken for a RIDE’s Impact on Social Studies Standards
The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity (RICFP), following up on the report Taken for a Ride, which critiques Rhode Island’s new social studies standards, has raised awareness about the issue on media and social media. Taken for a Ride did spur some improvements in the state’s social studies standards—errors corrected, woke language reduced—but the standards were approved with most problems intact. RICFP generated 200+ emails to the Rhode Island Board of Education, as well as personal emails to Board members—but the Board approved the Standards within seven seconds, with no acknowledgment of public pushback. RICFP published follow-up articles at Providence Journal, National Review, and Real Clear Policy and will do more elsewhere. RICFP also will use the model American Birthright Taskforce Act to promote social studies reform at the school-district level.
South Dakota: Testimony in Favor of Proposed Education Standards
The executive director of the Civics Alliance provided testimony (“Revised Social Studies Proposed Standards”) in favor of South Dakota’s newly proposed education standards. The Civics Alliance and the NAS are happy to testify in favor of a wide variety of education reform—and we urge education reformers to be sure to assemble large numbers of state and national witnesses to provide testimony in support of any education reform bill.
Tennessee: Draft Social Studies Standards
The NAS and the Civics Alliance wrote an open letter to the Tennessee Department of Education: “NAS Comments on Draft Tennessee Social Studies Standards.” We concluded that Tennessee’s Standards are far better than those of states such as Minnesota and Rhode Island, and that the draft Standards provide a solid basis for social studies instruction, although they would still benefit from systematic revision. We write this particularly to encourage optimism among Civics Alliance members. Vigilance is still necessary!—but state education departments, unprompted, still can produce decent social studies standards. This is good news for the country. It also allows us to strengthen our “best existing practices” arguments—we can tell Rhode Islands and Minnesotas to adopt the practices of Tennessee, as well as those of South Dakota or Virginia.
Terra Firma Teaching Alliance
The Educational Liberty Alliance (ELA) has just launched the Terra Firma Teaching Alliance, headed by two leaders in American education, Bonnie Snyder (Terra Firma’s CEO) and Paul Rossi (its COO). Terra Firma advances one of the foundational aspects of ELA’s mission: supporting teachers who are concerned about the K–12 environment but who feel powerless to enact change. Terra Firma will build a nationwide network of courageous and committed teachers. It will also become a thought leader in the field, providing practical and actionable guidance for teachers in reforming their classrooms and schools, and the American K–12 climate as a whole. Over the course of the coming months, Terra Firma will also communicate these approaches by publishing and promoting free professional development videos and resources, in order to provide a constructive alternative to the damaging inservice training now offered to educators at so many schools. Their method is to crowd out the bad with the good. Civics Alliance members interested in reforming K–12 teaching should take a look at Terra Firma.
American Birthright Taskforce Act
The Civics Alliance has just published the American Birthright Taskforce Act, drafted by the National Association of Scholars. The Act provides model language so that state policymakers can create a social studies task force, appointed by the governor and the state legislature, to draft social studies standards based on American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards. State policymakers may use this Act to establish American Birthright directly, rather than work through (too-often heel-dragging) state education departments.
The Act creates a social studies task force to draft social studies standards based on American Birthright—and which therefore can be tailored to suit the state’s own needs. The task force provides an opportunity for public input, its work product has to be approved by the education committees of both legislative houses, and every member of both legislative houses will have a chance to move amendments of the standards in detail. If the standards pass by concurrent resolution in both legislative chambers, then they are in effect for five years—at which point, they will be subject to review by a new task force.
Civics Alliance State Affiliates
The Civics Alliance is building a network of state affiliates—groups dedicated to removing action civics in their state, whom we will list on our website. We now have nine affiliates, in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas. If you would like to form such an organization, or suggest an existing organization, please get in touch with David Randall (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Monthly American Birthright Zoom Meeting
The Civics Alliance will have its monthly Zoom session devoted to social studies standards reform on Monday, April 3, at 2:00 PM Eastern Time. Please email email@example.com if you would like to join these monthly Zoom meetings.
Social Studies Standards Revision Schedule
2023/Current: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky (partial), Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming
2024: Alabama, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wisconsin
2025: Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas
2026: Colorado, Maryland, North Dakota, South Carolina
2027: Hawaii, Kansas
No Revision Currently Scheduled: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri (but could change), New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington
Waiting Confirmation: North Carolina (2021)
Please email David Randall (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in further information about your state’s social studies revision process, and what you can do to participate.
Continuing Priorities: Federal Legislation
At the federal level, the Civics Secures Democracy Act threatens to impose action civics nationwide.
The Civics Bill Tracker
Civics Alliance members may now use the Civics Bill Tracker to track all proposed federal and state legislation related to civics.
We encourage Civics Alliance members to inform the public and policymakers about the stakes and consequences of action civics bills.
David Randall is Executive Director of the Civics Alliance and Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars.