North Carolina Weighs New Social Studies Standards

Published December 9, 2010

The second draft of standards for social studies courses in North Carolina elementary and secondary schools offers sound improvements over the initial version, says Terry Stoops, director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation.
When the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released its first draft of the standards last year, North Carolinians identified a number of serious defects throughout the revision, Stoops said, particularly the scant coverage of the American Revolution and the Founding Era.
These objections largely were ignored in the local media until a Fox News report on the controversy aired in February. The Fox News story elevated the concerns, and after several months of deliberation, DPI responded with a second draft including coverage of the Founding Era three times between the fourth and eighth grade and again in high school.

9th Grade Studies Improved
The most notable changes in the second draft, Stoops said, are the addition of a U.S. history course and a revised high school world history course. The ninth grade social studies course would survey world history from early civilizations to the present, but DPI asks teachers to focus on world history from the 1450s to the present.
“This is an immense improvement over the Global Studies course proposed in the first draft,” Stoops said. The Global Studies course focused on globalization, human rights, climate change, international organizations, technology, and political, social, and religious changes occurring in the second half of the 20th century. The revised course will expose students to the works of Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Bolivar, Jefferson, Paine, Adam Smith, and other Enlightenment thinkers.
“Finally, high school students would be required to complete a civics and economics course and a two-year United States history course,” Stoops added.
Sequence ‘Somewhat Unusual’
Similar to the first draft of history standards released earlier this year, the second draft would require students to take world history courses in the sixth and seventh grade.
Stoops says the sequence of courses to be taught in elementary and middle school is still “somewhat unusual.” Two years of world history are sandwiched in between a fifth grade U.S. history course and an eighth grade North Carolina/U.S. history course. It is not clear that teachers will be able to integrate the content of the world history and U.S. history courses.
Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has asked a panel of several prominent current and former state officials—including former N.C. Supreme Court Justice and current executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Law Bob Orr, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye, former state Supreme Court Associate Justice Willis P. Whichard, and State Treasurer Janet Cowell—”to provide a special review of the proposed Social Studies Essential standards.”

A final draft is expected before the end of the school year.

Rick Henderson ([email protected]) is editor of Carolina Journal, published by the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina, where a version of this article first appeared. Reprinted by permission.