Why DC’s Proposed Social Studies Standards Are Troubling–And The Troubling Path Forward

[Ed. Note: At the DC state board of education (SBOE) public hearing on February 15, public witnesses again presented testimony outlining serious shortcomings of proposed social studies standards promulgated by the office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE). We do not know (yet) the content of the more than 5000 comments (!) that OSSE received from the public on the proposed standards, but OSSE expects to have a report to SBOE in March about the feedback and any revisions. Notably, given the volume of feedback, OSSE has not committed to releasing all public comments.

The commentary below to OSSE (reprinted here from its submission to SBOE with the permission of its author, former Ward 3 SBOE rep Ruth Wattenberg) gets to many of the concerns that public witnesses have articulated to SBOE and OSSE about the draft standards and illustrates the magnitude of the changes needed, especially relative to current standards. Among the problems is omission and diminution of significant content that the current standards include, especially around authoritarianism, non-European cultures and history, and immigration. The result, noted one teacher, is support of “a white supremacist dominant narrative.”

The question now is what happens next: specifically, will OSSE make wholesale changes as many are urging, pulling together experts, including historians, and then re-engaging the public?

Sadly, that’s not likely absent public pressure.

Consider that at the February 15 SBOE hearing, the head of OSSE, Dr. Christina Grant, touted OSSE’s initial deadline for public comment as “15 days longer than usual.” (See the video starting at minute 8.) Grant did not allude to that timeframe beginning over the December holidays when most schools were not in session. Nor did she allude to public testimony in January largely critical of the draft standards, in the wake of which SBOE asked OSSE to extend the public comment deadline well beyond that initial deadline. Instead, Grant touted the length of the entire comment period as “nearly twice” that of a standard comment period.

It would thus appear that after 2 years of formulating these new proposed standards, OSSE is uninterested in taking more time to do them right—even in the face of huge shortcomings and when OSSE’s own timeline for implementation is now fall 2024, which would allow for extensive revisions and public commentary.

Then there is also the question of how schools implement the standards in their curriculums.

Each of DC’s 69 local education agencies (LEAs) is responsible for setting its own curriculum. Incorporating new standards, explained Ward 6 SBOE rep. Brandon Best to me, involves setting up units of study with primary and secondary sources as well as obtaining books and other materials to support that. Such work takes time, he noted, expressing concern about whether all LEAs will have the time and resources to do that well and comprehensively for these new standards.

For Best, one underlying problem is that units of study in individual LEA curriculums might not change with the change of standards, which would in turn allow important concepts and events to simply drop away. Teacher Laura Fuchs echoed this concern at the SBOE hearing on February 15, saying that the standards need to clearly outline a social studies “canon.” (See her written testimony here and her tweet stream of her remarks here.)

Best noted that all of this goes into equity. Absent sufficient curriculum guidance and explicit connections of curriculums to the standards, different LEAs could end up using one set of standards but teaching very different things–with important topics not covered at all. As a result, Best noted to me, “we cannot view the completed standards as our end game.”

For more on this topic–and political attempts to revise how history is spoken of and taught in our publicly funded schools and what that means for our understanding of Black history–be sure to listen to Education Town Hall on Wednesday February 22, between noon and 1 pm, for a live discussion with local educators.]

By Ruth Wattenberg

Thank you for this chance to offer comments on the proposed social studies standards. My comments are largely critical. So before starting, I want to convey my strongest appreciation for the work that has gone into this. Writing good standards is hard and often thankless work. Thank you!

I’m reviewing these standards in part through my eyes as a recent member of the SBOE who has followed this process since it was initiated. In addition, I have followed and reviewed standards, especially in social studies, for over two decades. I know that when adopted [in 2006], DC’s current social studies standards were among the country’s very best. They were well-regarded for their coherence and their strong content. They have not been reviewed or revised in 16 years; the world has changed and new scholarship, especially around race and Reconstruction, has entered the mainstream. It was time for them to be updated—but not thrown out. In multiple statements, SBOE members called for these strong standards to be “revised,” not replaced. The Social Studies Standards Advisory committee called for the standards to be “revised rather than wholly re-written” [italic and boldface, R. Wattenberg’s]:

“The D.C. Social Studies Standards must contain content that equips all students with the foundational historical knowledge–of chronology, pivotal events, leading figures, and seminal documents–that “well-educated American students” ought to know and be able to incorporate into their discourse and argument. The current D.C. standards have been highly regarded for their clarity about such content and, thus, the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) and its Social Studies Standards Advisory Committee (SSSAC) recommend that the current standards be revised rather than wholly re-written.”

Much effort and many problems could have been avoided had this approach been honored. Instead, the current standards were thrown out. They were replaced by standards that are often extremely broad, vague, over-ambitious, and lacking specific knowledge (e.g., “analyze the role of religion, belief, systems, and culture in the governments and maintenance of societies in Africa, Asia and Europe”) [footnote 1]. They are less coherent than what they propose to replace and, relatedly, less disciplined in following key themes across time periods and standards.

Apart from the general concern above, my comments are focused on the world history/civilizations content that is lost and on the extent to which these standards are likely to convey to students an appreciation of democracy–an understanding of its values and principles, the gap between these values and American realities, and what it has taken from all Americans, most centrally African-Americans, to create a democracy that while still flawed is multicultural and multiracial. As our SBOE resolution on these standards states, the board believes that it is vital that these standards include ongoing, explicit threads aimed at developing student understanding of

–“key principles of democratic society”;
–the central role of African Americans in the “growth and evolution of legal equality and democratic rights and the creation of a multicultural, democratic society”;
–“the continuing tension in American history between the promise of democracy and equality in the founding documents and the reality of inequality”;
–“how these principles and human rights have evolved in the United States over time”; and
–providing students “with a global perspective and global context.”

Of special interest, given current concerns about democracy today, the board’s statement explicitly calls for conveying in these threads “the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democratic society,” “how democracy differs” from other governments, its “fragility” and “how democratic societies have failed in the past.”

Because this is the focus, my comments are focused on the 4 years of secondary American and World History. While information on how our democracy functions and skills for participation are contained in other courses (Civics and Government; and Action Civics), it’s in history where students get the context to understand “why” democracy is important and what it has taken to build the democracy we have. Before getting into the two sets of standards, I want to reiterate my concern with the vagueness of the standards.

Lack of clear, specific knowledge

Both sets of standards (and most of the standards in other courses), but especially the World History standards, suffer from being over-general and therefore vague. The public policy goal of standards is to assure that across schools, certain content and skills are taught to all. A key stated goal of the standards themselves is to promote critical thinking. But critical thinking—any kind of thinking—depends on knowing relevant content. These proposed standards regularly ask students to “assess,” “evaluate,” and otherwise think about the course material, but they often fail to provide the content needed to answer them. Finally, there is increased understanding that reading proficiency depends on broad background knowledge. But these very general standards provide very limited guidance on the knowledge students need.

This is not a call for a narrow “memorization of facts” but to provide students the content they need for strong reading comprehension and the grist that underlies critical thinking. The current standards, while needing updates in some sections, do a far, far better job than the proposed standards in making clear what students need to learn at different grade levels and how it all fits together. In some cases below, I’ve included comparisons with the current standards to make clear just how much has been dropped out.

I. What’s Missing from World History standards?

A huge strength of the previous standards was their strong treatment of the world. Students were introduced over 3 years to key civilizations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and pre-Columbian societies in this hemisphere. Students gained perspective on different cultures—to their history and culture, their varying approaches to governance and diversity, their strengths, weaknesses, and achievements. Through this study, students gained a global perspective, including on how societies change over time, what’s common across humanity, and what’s different across cultures.

That content is gone. Students lose a full year of secondary world history. Instead of the current three years of post-elementary world history, they would get just two. At the same time, perhaps to accommodate the reduced time, these proposed standards are far more general than the standards they propose to replace. A great deal gets lost, on both diverse cultures and the context for democracy. Hardly a single standard in the 2-year sequence names a specific non-western culture or civilization. Specifically,

In the proposed WH1 standards (<8000BCE-1600CE):

1. There is no in-depth look at the history, culture, experience of any specific country or civilization. Every standard that speaks to the history, culture, or experience of a country/region/civilization is now handled as part of a generalized group. Guidance to teach Chinese civilization is gone. Mesopotamia is gone. Ancient Greece is gone. Islamic civilization is gone. Medieval Japan and the Ottomans are gone. The rise of the great religions is gone. The Olmecs in MesoAmerica are gone. The sub-Saharan civilizations of the Middle Ages of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai are gone.

A typical standard–this one (Wh1#22) for the 1500 years from 800 BCE to 700 CE — reads: “Assess the importance and enduring legacy of major governmental, technological, and cultural achievements of ancient empires in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa.” The intro to each section (the “Driving Concept”) lists 10-19 different civilizations that could be highlighted but no guidance for what should be highlighted or why. There’s no way such overly ambitious standards can lead all students to learn what’s most vital.

In contrast, current standards expose students to unique, relevant aspects of each of the key civilizations above from across the world and centuries, giving students a genuine appreciation of different cultures and a perspective on our own culture. These proposed standards are thin gruel in comparison.

In the proposed WH2 standards (1450-current):

2. Virtually all learning about the non-European world is in the context of Europe. As a witness explained at the SBOE public meeting, these standards are Eurocentric, with virtually the only discussion of non-European countries being in the context of their interaction with Europe or the US. There’s no discussion of any non-European entity prior to their encounter with European exploration/ imperialism/colonization—no history, no art, no governance, nothing about their achievements or failures, connections to or impact on their neighbors.

a. Of the 29 WH2 standards covering 1450-1900,

**Just 1 standard (#2) is mainly about one or more specific non-European entities (about how the spread of knowledge “from Islamic and Asian societies promoted maritime exploration and ultimately the expansion of empires”).

**Just 1 (#9) references any non-western country/region/civilization outside the context of colonialism/imperialism (“Evaluate the environmental and cultural impact of the exchange of food, crops, trade goods, diseases, and ideas between Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas”).

b. Of the 42 WH2 standards covering 1900-present,

**Just 3 are focused explicitly on non-European countries. This period mainly addresses the various causes and consequences of WW 1 and 2, decolonization, and growing global issues, with countries addressed in that context.

In contrast, the current standards that cover 1450-1900 include standards on the Ottomans, the Maya, Inca, and Aztecs, developments on the Indian subcontinent, and Islamic, Chinese, and Japanese civilizations. In the post-1900 period, they address developments in Japan, China, the Philippines (including US involvement, which is absent here, though it is addressed in US History), land reform in Central America, and more.

3. Likewise, the primary discussion of Europe or any European country before WW1 is in the context of their role in imperialism/colonization/Eurocentrism, as though they too have no relevant history or culture before this period. Of the 29 WH standards covering 1450- 1900: 13 reference the role of Europe imperialism, colonialism, or racism [footnote 2]; 4 are about the impact of (presumably European/American) industrialization [footnote 3]; 2 are primarily about Europe (both are about the Enlightenment one of which also references colonization) [footnote 4].

4. The proposed standards totally neglect the history and development of democratic ideas and practice, leaving students without an understanding of what drove the early development of democracy or its values.

There are just two mentions of democracy or “democratic” in the two years of world history standards. One is in the introduction to the Driving Concept on “Revolutions (1750- 1900), preceding the several standards (above) on the Enlightenment. The other is Standard #46, asking students to “Compare the ideologies of socialism, communism, fascism, and liberal democracy” (though they have barely been exposed seriously to any of them). There is little to no context explaining the rise of democracy or its ideas.

In contrast, the current standards, in their study of Athens and the Roman Republic, students are introduced to such democratic ideas and practices as “direct democracy v. representative democracy,” the separation of powers, and rule of law. They can follow the fall of these early democratic efforts and the rise of different elements of democratic government in Medieval England (e.g., trial by jury, independent judiciary, parliament), early ideas that fed democracy (e.g., natural law, Montesquieu). As part of such study, students can begin to grasp the “brutish” world that democrats hoped to escape, start to learn the vocabulary of democracy, become familiar with key democratic ideas and principles. As importantly, this history gives students the context to see that democratic, representative government is not a “given”; it entered history late, failed, disappeared, and has been slowly evolved into something more democratic, representative, and free.

5. The proposed WH2 standards do not expose students to democracy’s alternatives. It is often said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Especially now, with democracy under challenge, students should know the grim alternatives. Minimally, students should be exposed to totalitarianism–particularly the most devastating ones of the last century, Nazism, fascism and Soviet-style communism—and authoritarianism and what their impact has been on human rights, national minorities, and the world. These standards do not.

Across WH2,

1 standard mentions totalitarianism: “Analyze how totalitarian leaders came to power after World War I” (WH2 #41).
0 standards mention Nazi, Nazism, Hitler, Franco, or Mussolini [footnote 5]
1 standard mentions fascism [footnote 6]. It’s a useful but anodyne call to “compare the ideologies of socialism, communism, fascism, and liberal democracy” (#46).
2 standards mention communism, the same (#46) above and one that mentions communism as a result of industrialization/capitalism [footnote 7].
2 standards mention the Holocaust–#35, as one of several “violations of human rights” during WW1 and 2, and #43 which is solely focused on it [footnote 8].
0 standards mention Stalin, the purges, gulag, the famine, Mao, or the Cultural Revolution.
0 standards mention dictator, dictatorship, authoritarian, or authoritarianism nor is any country described that way. As noted in public testimony, there’s no discussion of current (or long-standing) repressive governments in Iran, North Korea, anywhere in Latin America, Africa, or Asia—in other words, nowhere. (There is this: WH#53 Compare the governments formed after World War II in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.)

In contrast, the current WH standards address these types of governments and rulers in multiple standards, (10.6) on “the rise of fascism and totalitarianism after World War 1,” and 4 sub-standards, including on “Stalin’s rise to power… the absence of a free press, and systemic violations of human rights (e.g., The Terror Famine in Ukraine)”; “the assumption of power by Adolf Hitler… and the human costs of the totalitarian regime”; and Mussolini’s “rise to power in Italy and his creation of a fascist state through the use of state terror and propaganda.” Other standards and sub-standards include 4 that mention Hitler, a particularly substantive one on the Holocaust (#10.5), the rise to power of Mao, and the rise of military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala (#10.14.4). In short, students exposed to the current standards will be exposed to the horrors of totalitarian and authoritarian governments.

6. The post-WW2 and contemporary struggle for independent, democratic government around the world is ignored. After World War 2, the proposed standards have a section on “Decolonization and Nation-building (1945-Present)” and another on “Globalization and Changing Environment.” This period of time was indeed an era of decolonization and nation building. As important, and central for the past two decades, is the struggle for democracy across Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe. But this goes entirely unnoted. Further, and to re-emphasize, these WH standards are very general, with no individual country mentioned in this section. Africa, Latin American, and Asia (and the Caribbean once) are mentioned together in several standards.

In contrast, the current standards make the effort to stand up democratic governments a key part of their final sections. In addition to the much broader coverage of the non-western world in this period, as noted above, these standards specifically ask students to “outline important trends in [Africa] today with respect to individual freedom and democracy,” include standards that reference Tiananmen Square, the creation of a non- apartheid democracy in South Africa, and earlier efforts in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to resist or reform communism, including many notables in these fights (Mandela, Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn, and Walesa).

II. American History standards

The evolution of American democracy should be a central thread in these standards. America is generally regarded today, with all its flaws, as the world’s oldest, largest, most diverse, representative democracy. But at its founding, while the world’s most representative democracy at the time—the only people represented were white, propertied males.

Students need to understand this evolution. It is fundamental to educating future citizens. Our standards must convey this story. Our standards must convey, so that our students can come to know and understand: our founding ideals; the gap between those ideals and reality; the fight to realize those ideals over time—largely driven by the long struggle to end slavery and enact civil rights for African Americans; what it took to make these changes; what remains undone; and our connection to and the health of democracy in the world. While some key events and ideas are mentioned in these standards, there is no coherent, central thread that tracks this evolution or adequately conveys its importance. Below are five examples of this; there could be more.

I urge you to engage with historians and others with expertise on the new scholarship around Reconstruction and the role of race and on what it has taken for democracy to expand over the years in this country and others.

1. The principles, values, and context of the founding documents.

On the plus side, the proposed standards include standards on the key founding documents and their ideas—the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. And, more so and more explicitly than the current standards, they helpfully ask students to consider the compromises that were included in the Constitution, especially around slavery; whether the Bill of Rights was fairly applied to all; the perspectives and lives of those to whom the documents did not apply, and the extent to which the ideals or rules in the documents match the reality.

But in comparison to the current standards, they offer little on democratic ideas and principles [footnote 9]. And, the larger story of how the country’s democracy evolved from its extremely limited beginning is missing or very weak. In some cases, parts of the story are present, but they are without drama and are disconnected from democracy’s overall evolution. To some extent the problem is similar to the one that plagues the World History Standards; the standards are often just too general or too ambitious be addressed seriously. Part of the problem is that, like the world history standards, these largely exclude the earlier “backstory” of the colonists, losing a chance to provide context for the Founders’ interest in representative government, limited government authority, and religious freedom, for example. (Note: There is also no backstory on the ideas, culture and experience that Africans brought to America; their first introduction is in USH#20, already enslaved. Recall that this history was also dropped from world history standards.) But it’s also that there is no explicit effort to track democracy’s evolution. Major events around the coming and going of key rights go unmarked. Even when they are addressed, it’s often discretely, in a way that isn’t well-connected to the story of democracy’s expansion or contraction. Following are a few examples, especially around voting rights, citizenship, immigration, and Reconstruction.

2. Voting rights and citizenship rights: These central anchors of equal treatment get almost no explicit attention. Two standards [#40 and #24 parenthetically–“(e.g., enslaved people, women, free Black people, etc.)]” acknowledge that some Americans don’t have voting or citizenship rights; two parenthetically (US2 #9 and 58) reference “violence at voting booths”; one standard each in US1 and US2 is on the women’s suffrage movement and one each implicitly reference voting rights in general standards on the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. But the issue mainly goes under the radar. There is no acknowledgement that Native Americans or Asians didn’t have voting rights and citizenship rights. In no case is the importance or impact of winning the vote for any of these groups noted (more on this in 3a below). The only standard that explicitly marks any initially disenfranchised group gaining voting rights is USH2#60 when the Voting Rights Act is included in a list of civil rights laws passed in the 60’s. There is no mention of the Chinese Exclusion Act or other rules that kept Asians (including, explicitly, Chinese women) out of the country and/or ineligible for citizenship.

There is no discussion of these rights in the context of closing the gap between American ideals and reality. No discussion of the debates, conditions, or historical context that finally led to these changes. No drama. No detail. A lost opportunity to help students to connect voting to democracy’s principles and evolution.

3. The success of Reconstruction is underplayed. Its defeat is barely marked.

Since the current standards were written, much new scholarship has moved into the mainstream on Reconstruction, the role of race, and the Civil Rights Movement. I would expect these standards to be much stronger on these topics than those they replace. In some ways they are, but, again, so much is missing.

a. W.E.B. Du Bois describes Radical Reconstruction as “the finest effort to achieve democracy for the working millions which this world had ever seen.” The extent of voting, the election of thousands of African Americans, and the policies that voting produced does not come through here, likely leaving students without a full grasp of the tragedy that was the end of Reconstruction. It also misses the opportunity to connect voting rights to change and policy. As noted above, the only mention of voting and elections during Reconstruction is parenthetical, about violence at voting booths (USH #9).

b. To grasp the catastrophe of the loss of Reconstruction, students would need to understand its success; the initial but waning efforts to secure it and the brutality and violence that brought its overthrow; and how long running and widespread this violence were. As noted above, the inspiration isn’t adequately conveyed. The brutality and terror that immediately followed is named (#USH1-70 and USH2-9), though the sections are weakened without specific examples. The general impact of Reconstruction’s end is acknowledged in standard USH2 #13 asking students to “Examine laws and policies of the Jim Crow era,” including segregation and “unequal access to legal and social structures.” But there is not adequate acknowledgement that the discrimination and terror went unabated for 100 years. The focus doesn’t return to Jim Crow, segregation, voting rights, until after World War 2, 40 standards later! Since the last standards, so much scholarship on these years has entered the public discussion. There are so many specifics that could be named. This hole should be filled. The connection between the loss of the effective right to vote with ongoing terror and inequality should be made.

4. The standards ignore narrative political history, losing the opportunity to show the connections between and among individual and community experiences, social movements, events, public debates, the shaping of public opinion, elections, elected leaders, and changes in policy and laws. Chronology is hidden.

I know the standards writers wanted to move beyond “holidays and heroes.” But this goes well beyond that and is a great loss: In these standards, stuff happens—but the “why” is less visible than it should be. Causation gets lost. The connection between voters and government is lost. The story is lost. For example, after decades of increasingly intense public debate, Lincoln was elected, the Civil War happened; slavery was ended. Lincoln was assassinated. Andrew Johnson assumes the presidency and prevents Blacks from getting rights under Reconstruction. Grant wins election and sends troops to the South. Hayes wins and the troops are withdrawn. This is a dramatic, high-stakes story that doesn’t come through. Most of these particulars (except Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation) are not captured in the standards.

Across the standards, there are almost no elections or leaders—in or out of the White House–making choices, determining policy. In US History 2, which begins with Reconstruction, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. Du Bois are mentioned together in one standard. No other civil rights leader is mentioned in any standard. (Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are mentioned in the intro to Driving Concept 7). Where is Frederick Douglass (who is in USH1)? In the entire USH2, not one president is mentioned. There is no Franklin Roosevelt (or Theodore). There is no Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, no LBJ.

We get perspectives about the “impact” of decisions, but the causation is lost. As importantly, “stories” with real people are more memorable. How do you tell a memorable story about this era without these leaders? How do you build students’ background knowledge when specific events and personalities go unnamed? How do you come to understand the rhythm of politics? How do you interest students in civic and political action, an aim of the standards? For all these reasons, the neglect of politics—the stream that goes back and forth among people/voters, leaders, policy–is a great loss and should be corrected during revisions.

5. Immigration, immigrants and nativism are absent. An essential, unique piece of American history is the central role of immigration—of different religious, ethnic, national and racial groups. Why did different groups of immigrants come here? What role did they play in building America? How were they treated initially, to what extent has that changed over time, and how is it different for different groups? When and how did different groups gain citizenship? What does their initial and subsequent treatment tell us about the continuing and incomplete evolution of American democracy and the promise of equality? How have public opinion and laws on immigration changed over time? Students need to understand both that America is largely an immigrant nation, that relative to other nations it has generally been more open–and that unfair treatment and extreme nativism recurs. Students should also get a sense of how and why the “idea” of American identity has changed over the years—with popular terms shifting among assimilation, melting pot, mosaic, diversity, inclusiveness, etc.

These standards almost completely ignore immigration and immigrants. Specifically,

a. Across the two years of secondary history, just 3 standards mention “immigration” or “immigrant.” Each of these specifically discusses Chinese immigrants, and 2 also discuss American descendants of Mexican Americans (US1 #53; US2#11, 26). There are no other references to immigration or immigrants across the entire secondary American history sequence: No waves of immigrants from the Irish famine or elsewhere; except for the Chinese immigrants building the railroad, no immigrants who play big roles in building the country; no Japanese, Jewish, Italian, Polish, or Korean immigrants. No mentions of immigrants from broad ethnic or racial groups (e.g., Asian- or Latin-Americans).

b. Apart from immigration, just 6 other standards mention Asian-Americans, Latin-Americans, or any specific European-, Asian-, African- or Latin-American ethnic/nationality groups at all: Specifically, there is 1 standard on Japanese internment (USH#41); 1 on “roles and rights of… Latinx Americans and Asian Americans” during the Roaring 20’s (USH2#37); 3 on the experiences of veterans and impact of WW2 and discriminatory laws on different groups including Latinx Americans and/or Asian Americans. (USH2#40, 44, 53); and 1 on the contributions of the “Asian American Movement…Chicano Movement, Latinx resistance…” to the Civil Rights Movement. That’s it. There are 2 standards that reference impacts or inequality across “ethnic” groups (US2#16, 35).

c. As noted earlier, there is no reference to the Chinese exclusion act, which prohibited Chinese immigration in a singular way that was never done before or since with regard to any other ethnic or racial group. There is no reference to the 1965 Immigration law that eliminated national quotas and greatly expanded American diversity. No reference to nativism.

In contrast, the current standards discuss immigration or immigrants directly in 13 standards, specifically mentioning immigrants from Asia, China, Ireland, Italy, Northern, Southern, Eastern Europe, Japan, Korea, and Poland, Hispanics, Slavs, Slovaks and Jewish and non-English speaking immigrants, many of these groups multiple times. In addition, in a post-immigration context, Japanese internment, restrictions on Germans and Italians during WW2, ethnic political coalitions, ethnic tensions are all mentioned, as are movements for Asian American and Hispanic-American civil rights and the Chicano Movement. The issues of assimilation, cultural diversity and rising nativism are the subject of a current standard in both USH2 and USH2. Especially given current attention to immigration, the standards should be guiding courses to prepare our students to understand the nation’s history on this.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment on these standards. I am happy to talk further and look forward to the public engagement.


1. Proposed WH1 standards #33; see here at p. 112.
2. WH2 standards 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.
3. WH2 standards 19-21, 24.
4. WH2 standards 14, 15.
5. One secondary US History standard #39 also mentions fascism, Nazism, Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco: “Evaluate the reasons for the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe and the scapegoating of historically marginalized peoples (including Jewish, Romani, Slavic, disabled, and LGBTQ+ communities) by Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco.”
6. The same US history standard #39 mentions fascism.
7. Several standards address the Soviet Union, but not the nature of Soviet/communist government; they address the impact of industrialization on the creation of the Soviet Union, Cold War “rivalry” with the US and collapse of the Soviet Union.
8. In secondary US History, standard #41 mentions the Holocaust: “Assess the United States’ global commitment to universal human rights before, during, and after World War II, including but not limited to its role during the Holocaust and incarceration of Japanese Americans.”
9. See Existing Standards 8.2.1-7, 8.3.1-10, 8.4.1-6, 8.5.

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