A new study, published by the Boston-based research group Pioneer Institute (PI), demonstrates the serious repercussions of the Common Core standards’ approach of merging academic disciplines.
“By trying to include U.S. History in English language arts (ELA), Common Core will further damage history instruction,” reads a PI press release about the study that analyzes the new literacy standards for U.S. History.
“Imperiling the Republic: The Fate of U.S. History Instruction under Common Core,” was authored by Ralph Ketcham, a preeminent Founding-era historian, Sandra Stotsky, a content expert, and Anders Lewis, a high school history teacher experienced in writing standards.
“The Common Core standards for English language arts provide standards for the English language arts but also ‘literacy’ standards for history,” the co-authors explain in the report’s executive summary.
“Common Core dramatically reduces the amount of classic American literature and poetry students will read in favor of non-fiction or so-called ‘informational texts,'” said Stotsky, a nationally renowned expert on K-12 academic standards, and a former member of Common Core’s Validation Committee. “Consequently, the writers of the national standards attempted to shoehorn little bits and pieces of decontextualized U.S. History texts into the English standards. The simultaneous result damages instruction for both English and U.S. History classrooms.”
Given that there is little, if any, research to support the efficacy of English teachers being expected to teach U.S. History or informational texts, the authors urge schools to instead offer separate standards and classes for English and U.S. History.
“Common Core’s standards writers also call for the ‘cold reading’ of historical documents without any background knowledge to place them in the appropriate historical context,” PI’s press release states. “David Coleman, the principal author of the Common Core ELA standards, says that excluding texts’ historical context helps ‘level the playing field.'”
Coleman is considered to be the “architect” of the Common Core standards and now serves as president of the College Board, which has developed a new Advanced Placement (A.P.) U.S. History curriculum.
PI states the College Board’s A.P. curriculum simply continues the years of progressive philosophy of education that was launched after World War II and has replaced traditional study of U.S. History with social studies and current events courses.
The conservative think tank notes as well that progressive education in general, and the decision to shift away from teaching history per se, have produced poor results.
“By 2010, only 12 percent of high school seniors scored proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics tests,” PI notes. “NAEP has since eliminated the 4th and 12th grade civics tests.”
“The College Board’s new A.P. U.S. History curriculum also mirrors the ideological biases of progressive education,” PI continues. “It begins with a series of negative and divisive themes that are heavily focused on the balkanizing formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identity politics.”
“It’s like the bad and the ugly of American history, without any of the good,” said co-author Anders Lewis, a history teacher and art and history department head.
Examples of the progressive ideology present in the new A.P. format include the lack of themes on federalism, separation of powers, the Federalist Papers, and the Gettysburg Address in the curriculum. Additionally, teachers are not asked to provide instruction on Benjamin Franklin, and there is no mention in the curriculum about Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. Similarly, the events of September 11, 2001 are not referred to as an act of terrorism against the United States.
“Federalism as an essential principle of American government stands as the creative organizing concept that allows the fulfillment of the basic ideals of republicanism, liberty, and the public good,” said Founding-era historian and co-author Ralph Ketcham, whose National Book Award-nominated James Madison: A Biography (1991) is considered to be the definitive single-volume biography of the “father of the Constitution.”
“Any set of K-12 standards or curriculum that sidesteps or excludes this constitutional and civic reality damages students’ understanding of our republic and its history,” Ketcham added.
Co-authors Stotsky and Lewis served in state government as the driving intellectual forces behind Massachusetts’ K-12 U.S. History standards – considered to be a national model. Ironically, their standards were graded as among the best in the country by the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute, a fact that would seem to undercut Fordham’s support of the Common Core.
The co-authors recommend that local education governing bodies replace the College Board’s new A.P. U.S. History curriculum with the common civic core explained in Educating Democracy, which was published in 2003 by the Albert Shanker Institute.
“The Founders of the American experiment in democracy assumed that understanding American history was essential in a Union where public-spirited citizenship and the capacity to live under laws ‘wholesome and necessary for the public good’ would characterize the new nation,” the co-authors write. “To proceed without the knowledge of history, in their view, was a sure path to ‘a tragedy or a farce.'”