How to teach America’s negative history prompts debate on NC Board of Education ::

Proposed revisions to North Carolina’s new social studies standards led to intense division among some state Board of Education members, several of whom were concerned about the proposed standards themselves being too divisive.

The proposal goes before the board for a vote next week, but members discussed the latest revised language at a specially called meeting on Wednesday.

At issue is whether the proposed standards teach enough of the negative history of the United States or do enough to encourage students to feel positively about their country.

Per the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 85{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of the 7,000 comments received on the proposed standards were in support of them.

People opposed to the proposed standards said they’re concerned about the outcome of kids learning under their framework, that if students learned too many negative things compared to positive things, they would disengage from civic life. They also disagreed on the extent to which racism is built into society or government and how that should be taught.

Proponents of the proposed standards argued they would ensure students across North Carolina would receive comprehensive educations that would leave them better prepared to be engaged citizens.

The debate was a “microcosm” of national political discourse surrounding race and the United States’ racial history, board members observed.

That the discussion occurred was good and an indication that the proposed standards would be beneficial for students, board member Jill Camnitz said.

She called the dialogue “the kind of discussions that we need to be having that we hope this revision will encourage in our classrooms.”

But board member James E. Ford took issue with many of the arguments against the proposed standards, and said he felt people weren’t being forthright in their arguments.

“I’m really tired, y’all, because I feel like we’re not being direct,” he said, adding, “The truth is this debate is also about what we don’t want students to know. That’s the subtext we need to take out of our pocket and put on the table.”

The new standards encourage teaching too much negativity about United States history, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson told the board, and they “smack of leftist dogma.”

Others argued the proposed standards, which emphasize teaching about history from multiple perspectives, will help students better understand the people around them.

The proposed standards also include broad definitions of “identity” and “racism,” which were made more broad recently after concerns raised about the use of the terms “gender identity” and “systemic racism.”

The U.S. has a long history of laws and policies that have disadvantaged people of color, Ford said, such as redlining policies that prevented Black prospective homeowners from living in certain areas.

“Racism lives within those laws and systems and customs and norms,” he said. “I am just wondering if that is truly up for debate here.”

The definitions aren’t exhaustive, Superintendent Catherine Truitt told the board, and they were broadened to leave room for different types of identities and different levels of racism.

The board will discuss whether to approve the new standards next week, during their regular February meeting Wednesday and Thursday.

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