Bad social studies standards: Not just in Texas

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Texas isn’t the only place with lousy social studies standards, though you might be forgiven for thinking so considering all the attention that the Texas Board of Education has received in recent months as it adopted a new set of standards....

In Indiana, for example, the state Board of Education last year warned local school districts in an open letter not to use many of the social studies texts that were actually adopted by the state because, it said, they are lousy. The letter explains that the state education board is required by statute to adopt textbooks for use if they meet very minimal criteria. But that doesn’t mean board members have to like the books. The letter said in part:

“...As a board we have expressed our concern that the now standardized form of social studies textbooks -- jammed full of facts without interesting prose, racing through data without telling the story (good and bad) of our country -- may jeopardize both student interest in history as a subject and the effective learning of the country’s principles and values as a predicate to participating as a citizen of our nation. You should feel no obligation to utilize the standard form of social studies textbooks.

"To the contrary, we urge schools to move cautiously and not adopt social studies textbooks without giving thought to what book or other instructional materials can best help bring social studies to life. We continue to encourage local districts and educators to make content decisions that are premised on presenting material that both aligns to the state’s subject matter standards and engages students’ interests, that detail the complexity of the human experience and elicit richer student consideration of the history, values and principles important to the meaning of America, its past and developing place in the world and the fabric of its culture. This is critically important in United States history as a foundation element of educating students toward good citizenship.”

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