Friday, December 19, 2003

"Unprecedented Public Comment" 

The new social science standards have been published by the Department of Education. The new standards for science and social science are now available to the public. If you read the whole of the first draft with comments (in red, in Word format) and then the summary of changes, and you can see that the response has been quite substantial. The social science standards benchmarks have been reduced by 36%, and grade bands are used in lieu of grade-by-grade benchmarks.

The biggest change noted in the brief document is the change from specifics in the benchmarks to the use of a separate column for examples. One example provided is this:

One benchmark cited at many public hearings dealt with President Ronald Reagan:
�Students will know the political and economic policies that led to the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, including the role of Ronald Reagan.�

That benchmark has been changed to:
�Students will know and describe the political and economic policies that led to the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, from the Truman Doctrine to the administration of Ronald Reagan.�

To accompany this rewritten benchmark, the committee provided the following examples:
Nixon and Khrushchev debates, Cuban missile crisis, Nixon�s trip to China, Carter/Sadat/Begin peace talks, Star Wars initiative, aid to Polish solidarity and Afghan anti-communist movements, and Reagan�s �Tear Down This Wall� speech in Berlin.
Whether this appeases the critics remains to be seen -- I suspect not. And it's noteworthy that these are attack for too much specificity when the critics add non-European world history standards like this:
�Students will locate various African civilizations of the era and compare and contrast the cultures of these various civilizations in terms of the cultural universals of economic, political, social, religious, philosophical, and technological characteristics.� (Examples: Kush, Maroe, use of iron, ocean going trade)
Again, the question is when you teach this, what have you crowded out? This theme will recur on this blog for the next few months as these events are digested, and other members of the Northern Alliance will comment on those items that interest them as well. We will have our own "unprecedented public comment".