By Charly SHELTON
A lot has happened in the last few years. Gay marriage has been legalized in all 50 states, new stances have been taken on key issues of health care, racism and law enforcement, and the world is about to change even more with the upcoming elections and an uncertain future. The history and social science curriculum in public schools is updated every few years to stay current and tackle issues that are still fresh in the minds of students and adults alike, as well as to incorporate topics that may have been taboo to talk about in the past.
“In order to prepare 21st century-ready students who are able to contribute to, as well as shape, the democracy they want to live in, it is vital that we as educators allow them an opportunity to learn about all the issues that impact their world,” said Winfred Roberson, superintendent of Glendale Unified School District.
It is in this spirit that California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that the State Board of Education voted to approve the History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools last week.
“State law requires the Instructional Quality Commission to periodically update and provide recommendations to the State Board of Education about revised frameworks, which is what happened last week for history and social sciences,” said Robert Oakes, assistant communications director for the California Dept. of Education. “The Education Code requires the Commission to conduct this process. The latest version started in 2008 but was temporarily suspended when the state budget was severely cut during the recession. The process restarted when the budget was restored.”
The new framework will help in giving educators a guide to teaching certain subjects. Frameworks work alongside the already-in-place standards that govern what the students will learn.
“As a former social science teacher, I believe the new framework offers updates that will enhance instruction and student learning,” Roberson said. “One of our primary responsibilities as educators is to provide students the most relevant and engaging curriculum possible; doing so will help ignite their love of learning. Updating history materials is a positive step to help support better student engagement.”
New topics to be added for discussion in classrooms will include voter education, financial literacy, genocide and the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Americans to the history of the state and the nation. But not all proposed topics have been accepted smoothly by the public during discussion online and at state school board meetings.
Some topics met resistance and debate over the framework instruction, including the Bataan Death March, the Battle of Manila, the roles of LGBT Americans in U.S. and California history, the Armenian Genocide, and discrimination faced by Sikh Americans. In the online survey, the CDE received over 700 public comments from more than 480 different submitters. Then in the second field review from Dec. 17, 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016, over 10,000 email comments were received. These don’t include comments received during the state board meetings.
“The IQC received extensive public input on a variety of issues, including more than 250 public comments at the state board meeting last week. The process was public, inclusive and intended to give students and teachers the most up-to-date and accurate scholarly research,” Oakes said. “For example, the frameworks were updated to reflect the written declaration between the modern governments of Japan and Korea that comfort women were used for sexual slavery during World War II. California is a large and incredibly diverse state, and the comments reflected that diversity.”
The new framework was adopted officially last week by the state school board, and it will be rolled out in classes later this year.
For more information, visit CDE.CA.gov.