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Inclusive Social Studies Standards Pass Colorado State Board

Colorado social studies courses should include the experiences and contributions of diverse groups: Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, religious minorities, and LGBTQ people.

In a series of 4-3 votes to the party line on Thursday, Democrats on the Colorado State Board of Education endorsed social studies standards with an expanded view of American history and who there is. in its place. The decision reinstated many specific references that had been removed from the draft standards in response to negative comments from curators.

And the council also voted unanimously to make changes to the standards that guide Holocaust and genocide education, clarifying that the Nazi Party was fascist, not socialist, and adding historical and contemporary atrocities. to the list of what students should know.

The decision moves Colorado in the opposite direction of Republican-controlled states that are pass laws to limit how teachers can talk about race, gender and sexuality and also to limit how they can support students.

The Council of State has heard months of debate and received hundreds of emails about the standards. Conservative parents said the standards would divide students by race and ethnicity and introduce ideas about sex and gender at a young age, potentially in violation of parents’ values. Republican board members largely agreed.

In response, a standards committee made up of teachers, community members and other experts removed many specific references in favor of terms such as “diverse groups” and “marginalized perspectives”.

After these changes, other groups, including parents, students and teachers, came together to defend the more inclusive and specific version of the standards. They said students would benefit from seeing themselves in the curriculum and in American history.

In particular, young gay men said they would have understood themselves better and feared less for their future if they had learned that gay or transgender people live their full lives and contribute to their community. They also want their peers to understand them better.

“My existence is not political,” said Reina Hernandez, a Latina trans student at Cherry Creek High School. “He was simply politicized to pursue a political agenda. Do you support my right as a student to exist publicly? »

Name groups of approved standards, require specifics

The State Board restored most of the material cut Thursday, with some formatting changes to reduce repetition.

In preschool, rather than asking students, “Why is it important to hear and share many different points of view?” a teacher would ask, “Why is it important to hear what friends from different backgrounds (cultures, races, languages, religions, family composition, etc.) have to say? »

In eighth grade, rather than having students “analyze evidence from multiple sources, including those with conflicting accounts of specific events in Colorado and United States history,” the standard names Perspectives to Consider: “Indigenous Peoples,” Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and African American Perspectives on Western Colonization and Slavery, Asian American and Latino Perspectives on Immigration, Indian Removal Act, the Buffalo Soldiers and the Sand Creek Massacre.

Republicans focused their concerns on references in the early years to LGBTQ people. A preschool standard states that students should show interest in interacting and developing relationships with people from diverse backgrounds, and names LGBTQ people among other groups.

Democratic board members said it would look like kids freely sharing their families and bringing family photos, whether they have a mom and dad or two dads. Republican board member Steve Durham countered with the example of drag queen story hour sessions held in some libraries.

He described the standards as “anti-parenting,” and some parents in the audience agreed.

Mary Goodley described teaching her toddler to sit, then walk, then run, and said teaching young children about the contributions of members of the LGBTQ community would be like asking them to run before you can sit down. She imagined her child entering school, learning about a notable leader in the LGBTQ community, and then wondering what LGBTQ means.

“I don’t want my child’s first-grade teacher to introduce her to these vast sexual complexities,” Goodley said. “Teaching children particular notions of sex and gender is a gross violation of parental rights…and diminishes trust in the public education model.”

And mother Janelle Rumley said the idea that students have to see themselves in the program bothered her because it suggests white children like hers cannot learn from or be inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. or Harriet. Tubman.

But other parents said that without details in the standards, the history of their community is simply not taught.

Maria Guadalupe Cardoza said she has nine children in the Boulder Valley School District, and “the only thing my children learn about our history is people of their own color.”

Hernandez, the Cherry Creek student, worked to develop a class that would cover LGBTQ issues and ethnic studies. It has been difficult to convince administrators that the subjects are as important as other academic subjects, she said. Having social studies standards that list by name the groups whose stories should be told would help students get their point across.

“For a very long time, I was afraid of who I was,” she said. “With education, it helps.”

Standards will shape teaching, but not dictate it

Colorado does not establish a curriculum or select textbooks at the state level. It will depend on the school districts. Standards define what students are expected to know, and school districts typically try to choose a curriculum that aligns with state standards. However, there is little application, especially in subjects like social studies.

The State Board was required to update social studies standards to comply with several new state laws that require the inclusion of more diverse perspectives in social studies, call for stronger civics education, and make learning about the Holocaust and genocide a graduation requirement.

The three requirements have become politically controversial. Republican board member Deb Scheffel wanted Colorado’s civic standards to be based on conservative American birthright standards, an idea rejected by Democrats. And Durham shaped the norms around the Holocaust and genocide to associate the nazis with socialism and point out the dangers of left-wing governments, leading history teachersJewish groups and others to call for change.

Also on Thursday, the State Council voted unanimously to make changes to the genocide standards before finalizing the social studies standards. After reading a quote in which Hitler attacked Jews for being capitalists, Durham voted with other council members to add the word fascist to the description of the Nazi Party at the suggestion of council member Rebecca McClellan.

Board members also voted unanimously to restore references to Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur that had been lost and, at the suggestion of board chair Angelika Schroeder, added a requirement that students had to learn that the Sand Creek massacre was a genocide.

“I don’t want people to think with all the -isms that this only happens in other countries,” Schroeder said.

Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers education policy and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s education coverage. Contact Erica at [email protected]

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