Education leaders in Georgia and Minnesota are working to revise their state standards for U.S. and world history. And, in both states, a fierce debate has ensued. We've been following the Minnesota story for some time (see http://www.edexcellence.net/gadfly/issue.cfm?issue=8#370) and have watched as social studies ideologues have savaged the state's courageous education commissioner, Cheri Pearson Yecke, for daring to develop standards that expect students to master real historical content. Regrettably, Georgia seems to be headed in the opposite direction. At least one history teacher says that its new "Performance Standards" for social studies expect less of students, not more. According to Joseph Jarrell, a 25-year veteran Georgia history teacher, "The misguided rationale behind the hastily prepared revision [of the standards] is that we teach too much history in high school. The solution? Eliminate 40 percent of the current coursework." "Interesting formula," quips Jarrell, "teach less, test less, brag more." In Minnesota, on the other hand, where Yecke and her team are working to ensure that the new history standards are more rigorous than the state's widely mocked Profiles of Learning, critics allege the reverse: that the proposed Minnesota standards have "too much content" and demand "too much memory work." Some of the more squalid among them have even defamed Yecke for writing standards that are "implicitly and explicitly racist" because they are "too focused on the experiences of white Americans and Europeans."
"DFLers roll out plans for schools," by Norman Draper, Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 27, 2004
"The Minnesota Senate hearings: social studies," EdWatch.org, January 26, 2004, (click on "Ed Watch updates")
"Social studies standards won't promote Dr. King's cause," by Paul Spies, Minnesotans Against Proposed Social Studies Standards, January 19, 2004
"Dumbing down our past doesn't serve our future," by Joseph Jarrell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 25, 2004
"Heightened standards delve deep," by Kathy Cox, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 25, 2004