An advisory committee tentatively voted to change the standards for social studies in Kentucky, as requested under a new state law which proponents say is intended to eradicate “critical race theory” in public schools.

So-called “critical race theory” became a popular target for conservative and right-wing activists, pundits and politicians opposed to diversity initiatives in workplaces and schools.

The Local Superintendents Advisory Committee voted in favor of the changes, making it mandatory for teachers to use certain “fundamental American documents” in teaching academic standards set by the state. The documents come from a list of 24 speeches and texts selected primarily by the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Max Wise, who is now running mate for Republican gubernatorial nominee Kelly Craft. Wise previously said the list is partially off 1776 Uniteda project launched by conservative black civil rights activist Bob Woodson as a counter-argument to the 1619 project of the New York Times.

The list of texts includes many documents already commonly taught in schools, from the Declaration of Independence to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream.” Also included are the Bill of Rights, Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” and a speech given by Ronald Reagan in 1964 while campaigning for failed Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.

The committee’s approval means the changes will go to the Kentucky Board of Education next month. If approved by the board, the changes would become final in time for the July 2023 deadline set by the state legislature.

Superintendents voted unanimously in favor of the changes, but their “yes” votes were not without criticism.

Ludlow Independent Schools Superintendent Mike Borchers said academic standards must remain “consistent”. The state typically reviews and updates the standards every six years through an extensive process that includes feedback from teachers, experts, and community members.

Borchers said he and his colleagues must work to ensure that lawmakers exercise “caution” when they “dictate certain things that need to be taught.”

“That could change for our people every year if we get into this mess,” Borchers said. “It will not be good for any student or teacher.”

A public poll earlier this fall shows that most respondents strongly agreed or were neutral with the changes. A small proportion of the 400 respondents were strongly opposed to the changes.

Micki Ray, chief academic officer for the Kentucky Department of Education, said some opposed the changes because they felt the list of documents was not diverse. Of the 24 documents, only one was written by a woman. None were written by Native Americans, Latinos, or people of Asian descent.

Others opposed it, Ray said, because the changes didn’t go far enough for them. Instead of including the “fundamental documents” in the standards themselves, the state has proposed including them in some sort of “clarifying” appendix that tells educators how to teach the standards.

To address these concerns, the department proposed a new eighth-grade standard that states that students should be able to identify “the impact” of 15 documents on the development of the United States from 1600 to 1877 from the list chosen by the legislature analyze.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass said there is nothing stopping teachers from bringing in additional, more diverse texts.

“Sen. Wise was clear … to his credit, that he did not intend that these documents he produced were reserved solely for other things that students may be exposed to,” Glass said.

Kentucky isn’t the only state changing its standards in response to a backlash against culturally inclusive curricula. Last week, dear parents, Educators and community members flocked to a Virginia Board of Education Meeting to oppose a draft of standards for social studies that rewrites what many call “whitewashing.”

Education officials in Virginia have apologized for an early version of the changes that removed Martin Luther King Jr. from elementary school standards and incorrectly labeled Native Americans as the country’s “first immigrants.”

Source