Ray Carter | June 27, 2022

‘American Birthright’: National experts propose school civics standards

Ray Carter

To improve education in all 50 states and counter the anti-Americanism that has infected many civics classrooms, a national organization has developed a new set of academic standards for K-12 social-studies classes that can serve as a framework for each individual state’s standards, including in Oklahoma.

American Birthright: The Civic Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards” was developed by a broad range of experts with input from numerous organizations nationwide.

Love, liberty, and the law—these are the touchstones of American social studies instruction,” the introduction to the standards states (emphasis in original). “Rather, these should be the three touchstones of American social studies instruction. Far too many schools have wandered from these touchstones. Some educators are so caught up in pedagogical ‘theory’ that they have forgotten that facts come first. Some activists in our schools, public and private alike, are so antagonistic toward our culture, without recognizing what they owe to it, that they seek to erase our worthy history of liberty from the curriculum. Instead of an informed and intelligent patriotism, they foster a cynical spirit devoid of appreciation for the richness and complexity of the American past.”

The mission statement of the Civics Alliance, a national coalition of organizations and citizens dedicated to preserving and improving America’s civics education and preventing the subornation of civics education to political recruitment tools, declares, “We believe American students should comprehend aspects of American government such as the rule of law, the Bill of Rights, elections, elected office, checks and balances, equality under the law, trial by jury, grand juries, civil rights, and military service. American students should learn from these lessons the founding principles of the United States, the structure of our self-governing republic, the functions of government at all levels, and how our key institutions work.”

The document states that officials created American Birthright as a model state social studies standard because “state standards are the single most influential documents in America’s education administrations.” The document notes that state standards “not only guide public school districts and charter schools but also influence what textbook authors write, and what knowledge assessment companies (such as the College Board) test for in their Advanced Placement examinations,” and also “affect teacher training” and “provide the framework for individual lesson plans created by teachers.”

The proposed standards emphasize the extensive use of primary source documents, saying, “Students should learn the actual materials of history and not just textbook interpretations, which often distort the past.”

The standards include four disciplines—history, geography, civics, and economics.

The standards begin with teaching pre-K and kindergarten students how to identify and describe the events or people celebrated during U.S. national holidays, including Independence Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, and Veterans Day. From there, the standards cover a range of topics throughout all grades until high-school seniors are expected to examine “fundamental documents in the American political tradition to identify key ideas regarding limited government, self-government, and individual rights,” including such documents as the Magna Carta (1215), Mayflower Compact (1620), Petition of Right (1628), Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641), English Bill of Rights (1689), Declaration of Independence (1776), United States Constitution (1787), and the Bill of Rights (1791).

The project coordinator for “American Birthright” was David Randall, director of research for the National Association of Scholars.

Brandon Dutcher, senior vice president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), was among the officials serving on the steering committee for American Birthright.

Oklahoma’s social-studies standards were last revised in 2019 and are reviewed and updated every six years.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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