Tuesday, December 23, 2003

"The social studies standards seem to be moving closer to a consensus" 

Thus spake The Pioneer Press, which has decided to give a guarded "thumbs up" to the social science standards. But they continue to view our children as not capable of learning too much.
The curriculum for fourth-grade world history students is especially burdensome � the kids are expected to know prehistory through 1500 A.D., including archeological types and ancient civilizations of the Chinese, Egyptians, Indians, Greeks, Romans, the Byzantine Empire, Medieval Europe, Japan, Africa and the Middle East. For good measure, they're also to know about world religions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and indigenous traditions. They are to understand regional trade patterns in Europe, East Asia and the Middle East and analyze contributions of the Aztec and Incan civilizations. In addition, the 9-year-olds must know the significance of the Renaissance; it's suggested that they consider contributions from Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Johann Gutenberg.

Recall that the above is one portion of the social studies requirement, followed by geography, economics and government/citizenship. Add to the above the usual fourth-grade math, science, reading and writing classes and you have to wonder if the kids will go blind before they reach fifth grade.
They've made it sound much worse than it really is. They've blended examples which are not required into benchmarks and standards. They fail to recognize that this is all part of a pattern to get fourth graders to start thinking of events in chronological fashion -- how else would you do that if not with history? All they are asked to know about world religions is where they are practiced on a map and that different areas have different religions. (You'd think the diversity police would like that.) And that section they are quoting (see page 9) includes the new standard on finding major African civilizations, but that additional burden isn't discussed by the editorial.

They then dissolve into a clear pattern of showing they don't know what they are talking about. They complain about second grade teachers not being able to teach both Mahatma Gandhi and Florence Nightingale "in a single lesson", without any suggestion in the examples for the standards that this is required. And they cite an economics high school benchmark on the "third agriculatural revolution" that is actually a geography benchmark. If you're going to critique the draft, try to get the story right, please?