The Kansans have learned that culture wars do not end at the state border. They invade almost every aspect of our daily life. Lately, the teaching of American history has been criticized. Whether the battle is political (Republican versus Democrat) or ideological (critical theory of race versus traditional explanations of history), this media assault targets public schools.
Our schools should be a place where students learn about our democratic system and their place in it, not a battleground for opposing views.
The current raging culture war goes far beyond arguments over which view of American history should be taught. It is a struggle that encompasses the heart of democracy, as American democracy transcends the organization and operation of government to embrace the broader responsibilities of citizenship – respect, decency, civic obligation, and love of freedom.
To fulfill the original purpose of the founders of public education to create an informed electorate, what should we be teaching our K-12 students today about history and our way of life?
For the current year, Kansas teachers are required to teach integrated civics education in the Kindergarten through Grade 4 curriculum. Social studies classes or integrated instruction in middle grades are determined by individual school districts. For high school students, study of world history, American history, and government, including concepts of Kansas history and government, and the U.S. constitution, is required to earn the diploma.
We can almost all agree that this is a solid program. The fury, however, is not about “what is required in our schools.” It is about “how” it is taught.
Kansas House Education Committee Chairman Steve Huebert wants to require high school students to take a citizenship test to graduate. The test would be similar to that given to immigrants applying for US citizenship. Presented during the last legislative session, the bill was not adopted.
According to Kansas law, what is required in Kansas public schools is the jurisdiction of local school boards based on state policy and federal law. Currently, state standards present a centrist approach. Unjust and unjust events in American history as well as the nation’s rise to become a beacon of freedom and the world’s most powerful economic and military force are taught by presenting full and accurate accounts of the past.
Critical race theory – the center of current contention – highlights the institutional and personal racism that continues to this day. Other accounts describe American history as a march of slow progress. Neither is entirely correct. From the thought of the early Greeks to the present, mankind has been unable to produce a theory that ties all of history together as to why the past happened as it did.
The Kansans must not allow piecemeal legislation or a comprehensive curriculum from one political or ideological group to overtake school curricula. Historical theories are the work of academic studies.
Public disputes without direction but of significance over the teaching of American history should be resolved through local review of social studies and history curricula by teachers and administrators, involve community participation, and result in a review of elected school board. Democracy put into practice will either identify areas for improvement or reassure parents and students that their school is on the right track.
Respect for diversity and patriotism are not mutually exclusive concepts, except in culture wars.