State Education Board to Consider Social Studies Standards in August; Where’s My Socialism?

The call for a special session, whether to rehash Common Core or discuss genuine K-12 funding policies, will likely fail. If you want to talk K-12 funding, you’ll have to wait for the next Blue Ribbon K-12 meeting in Pierre August 19.

Logo for state social studies standards, updated 2015.03.18
Logo for state social studies standards, showing centrality of the “C3 Framework” (Career, College, Citizenship), updated 2015.03.18

If you need to scratch your Common Core itch, I was going to direct you toward the state Board of Education meeting next week… but South Dakotans Against Common Core inform us that the board failed to give proper public notice of one important part of their hearing and thus had to reschedule. The board will still meet by phone next Monday to discuss some frittery rule changes.

But the yummy stuff comes next month, August 24, when the board will meet in Rapid City to discuss new social studies standards, which should set K-12 distractionalists’ antennae all a-twitch.

The proposed draft standards come to us from a 35-person committee that included at least 28 active social studies teachers. Everyone on the committee appears to be a South Dakotan, so no sign of nefarious federal mandates yet (not that Common Core ever was a federal mandate, but I’m just trying to think like the folks who shout about Common Core for the wrong reasons).

Alas, the standards committee relied heavily on material from the C3 Framework, a simple idea that says social studies ought to prepare kids for college, career, and citizenship. And who wrote the C3 Framework? The same folks who wrote Common Core:

An author of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is behind the C3 Framework as well — the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). According to the documents, the C3 Framework was developed in response in state requests for further clarity on what college and career preparation (a key principle in the development of the Common Core) would look like in social studies classes in particular. As you likely know, the Common Core itself only outlines the literacy skills that social studies students are expected to learn; it does not outline discipline-specific, non-literacy skills [Dve Stuart, Jr., “What’s the C3 Framework, and How Does It Affect Your Social Studies Class?” Teaching the Core, 2012.11.28].

Just like Common Core, the C3 Framework was a collaborative, state-led effort. Just like Common Core, the C3 Framework codifies pretty straightforward concepts that good teachers already know into fancy graphics that impress administrators and bureaucrats. Just like Common Core, the C3 Framework will like be replaced and forgotten by the next wave of education reform in ten or twenty years.

But if I were a Common Core hawk, I’d be going nuts. The same folks who brought Common Core to math and English are now trying to write the agenda for the social studies classroom. Aaaaaahh! Sound the alarm!

*   *   *

Social studies includes economics, so if Common Core is a socialist plot, that’s where one might expect to find the most Soviet propaganda. Let’s look for socialism in the economics skills the social studies committee expects our kids to execute:

  • Kindergarten: Describe the difference between wants and needs.
  • First Grade:
    1. Distinguish between goods and services and how families use them.
    2. Describe ways in which people earn money.
  • Second: Identify goods and services available in the students’ communities.
  • Third:
    1. Explain ways producers use resources to produce goods and services.
    2. Use examples to show that people in modern society may not be able to produce everything they want and depend upon trade with others to meet their wants.
  • Fourth:
    1. Discuss what factors (both positive and negative) influence individual choices.
    2. Describe the necessity for government to collect taxes from its citizens in order to provide services to its citizens (Will this include a guest speaker from the Libertarian Party to tell us taxation is theft?)
    3. Describe how the economic needs of South Dakotans and people in other regions of the US have been met
      (which will have to include discussion of our reliance on socialist wealth redistribution).
  • Fifth:
    1. Explain how supply and demand influences sellers in markets (ah, capitalism!).
    2. Explain the role of money as a means of trade between individuals and/or groups.
    3. Explain the meaning of inflation, deflation, and unemployment.
    4. Describe examples of various institutions that make up economic systems.
  • Sixth
    1. Explain societies’ attempts throughout history to satisfy their basic needs and wants.
    2. Identify basic economic systems present throughout ancient civilizations and how those systems contributed to the success or failure of the respective civilization.
    3. Identify the effects of economic systems on society.
  • Seventh:
    1. Describe the relationship between government and economic systems in different countries.
    2. Describe how economic activity affects standard of living.
    3. Describe how technology affects the economic development of places and regions.
    4. Describe the role of trade barriers and agreements in the global economy (the thin edge of the wedge for discussing globalism?).
    5. Explain how the availability of resources provides for or challenges human activities
  • Eighth:
    1. Describe the impact of technology and industrialization on mid-1800s America.
    2. Describe the economic effects of Reconstruction in the United States.
    3. Identify economic support for America during conflicts.
    4. Describe how economic gain was the motivation for westward expansion (wait: the motivation? what about population growth, political machinations, Christianity, and the desire for adventure?)
  • High School (The standards lump grades 9 through 12 all together, since high schools offer different courses at different times):
    1. Through the construction of compelling questions, explain how the fundamental economic problem of unlimited wants with limited resources reflects enduring issues at all levels.
    2. Analyze the factors that may lead to different responses to the basic economic questions.
    3. Differentiate among the factors of production of land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship.
    4. Analyze the relationship between households and businesses in a market economy using the circular flow chart.
    5. Define and assess advantages and disadvantages of sole-proprietorship, partnership, and corporations in a market economy.
    6. Explain how scarcity, choice, and opportunity costs impact economic decision making at all levels by using a production possibilities curve.
    7. Apply marginal analysis in the economic decision making process.
    8. Compare and contrast the characteristics of perfectly competitive and less competitive market structures.
    9. Explain the law of supply and analyze the factors that create a change in supply.
    10. Explain the law of demand and analyze the factors that create a change in demand.
    11. Connect the role of supply and demand in creating price and quantity equilibriums in a perfectly competitive marketx
    12. Analyze how price and quantity equilibriums can be impacted through changes in supply, demand, and elasticity.
    13. Explain the concerns with surplus and shortage in the marketplace and what factors can potentially create disequilibrium in a market.
    14. Identify and critique the socio-economic goals of various countries including the US.
    15. Analyze and explain the relationship between households, businesses, and government agencies in the economy of the US by using the circular flow chart.
    16. Interpret economic indicators used by economists that may lead to differing conclusions regarding the current phase of the business cycle.
    17. Predict the degree of economic impact of different types of unemployment and different variables creating inflation by using appropriate data.
    18. Describe the ways in which each level of government in the US generates revenue and critique the method of using that revenue for public services.
    19. Analyze the potential positive and/or negative impact of changes in government policy.
    20. Compare and contrast economic stabilization approaches to the US economy.
    21. Explain the structure of US banking system.
    22. Assess and critique the tools used by the Federal Reserve System to influence the money supply.
    23. Compare the general characteristics of communism, socialism, and capitalism.
    24. Give a detailed explanation of the characteristics of capitalism citing examples from the US.
    25. Weigh the impact of factors such as the availability of economic resources, level of technology, and degree of economic freedom on a nation’s economic growth.
    26. Explain, citing evidence, why the US is an example of a mixed economy.
    27. Differentiate between a developing and newly developed nations.
    28. Analyze differing arguments regarding the impact of transitional economies on the global economy and specificallyon the US economy.
    29. Apply the concept of comparative advantage to explain why goods and services are produced in one nation versus another.
    30. Construct an argument for free-traders and construct a counter-argument for protectionists.
    31. Identify and critique various barriers to international trade.
    32. Identify and provide the historical foundations for various international trade agreements and any impact on the US economy.
    33. Explain the impact of exchange rates on the value of goods and services.
    34. Analyze how the global economy has changed the interaction of buyers and sellers in the US economy.

Boy, once the kids hit high school, there’s a lot of comparing and contrasting and critiquing from different viewpoints, but I don’t see any clear bias toward socialism. If anything, high school skill #24 suggests we’ll spend extra time in class talking about American capitalism.

All those skills are just under economics; the standards list equivalently challenging tasks for civics/government, geography, and history. And on top of that, we still have to make time for kids to learn how to conjugate French verbs and practice for the winter choral concert.

But review the skills the social studies standards propose for our kids and tell me: do you see any task that is not appropriate for our public classrooms? Do you see any bit of economics, civics, geography, or history knowledge that shouldn’t be on that list, or that has been omitted?

Those are the real questions folks should ask before they consider taking pitchforks to the Board of Education meeting in August.

20 Responses to State Education Board to Consider Social Studies Standards in August; Where’s My Socialism?

  1. Deb Geelsdottir

    I see that list as a good thing. My first year high school teaching subjects included American History and World History. I was prepared for those and really enjoyed teaching them. It was a very, very small school and the 2nd year they threw in Psychology. “Here’s your textbook. Have fun!” Crap. I had no idea what to do. The 3rd year it was Econ, with a textbook pushed at me. I would have loved standards to help me know what I was supposed to be doing. BTW, that still happens in little schools.

    In addition, I don’t read anything nefarious in the standards, and there appears to be a reasonable amount of space for teacher flexibility as she teaches. If I were still teaching, I’d support this. I support it as a citizen. I was afraid it was going to be a Texas style rewrite of history to suit their political goals. They’ve got major problems. Major. It’s no different than North Koreas’s fake history to make the Jong Il family look good.

  2. Douglas Wiken

    Seems like a lot of stress on economics and very little information on how ideology and ideals related to social justice. There appears to be very litte on justice or values, etc. What makes a good government? Etc. Etc.

    I see too that some kid with real knowledge of how our system is failing might conclude that many of the questions are irrelevant or provide and answer which fails to fulfill expectations of standards definers.

  3. Donald Pay

    Maybe it’s there, or it’s in a different part of the social studies standards, but I one thing that should be considered is various sectors of the economy, eg., ag, mining, manufacturing, etc. Another thing would be some practical applications: personal finance, budgeting, soft skills from getting and maintaining that first job. I’m thinking, though, that stuff may be covered in consumer economics courses.

  4. No rewriting history here, Deb, at least not in the standards. These standards still leave plenty of room for me to walk into a U.S. history class and assign Howard Zinn and Dee Brown. Of course, we buy our textbooks from out of state, and those textbooks are influenced by Texas and other culture war battlegrounds.

    Douglas, above I’ve listed just the economics standards. For discussion of ideologies, check out the HS History Standard 9-12.C.1.5: “Explain the relationship between political ideologies and corresponding economic ideologies and their impact on government systems through the use of compelling and supporting questions.”

    Don, I wonder if those personal finance standards are under the math standards? You are right: these econ standards seem to focus more on the big economic system and don’t look clearly at training students to use their economic knowledge for personal finance decisions.

  5. Jason Sebern

    Zinn + Brown = Truth

  6. Jason, we might need more terms to the left side of that equation, but I think we have a good start. Any recommendations for HS social studies reading?

  7. Jason Sebern

    First Semester: Brown, Thoreau, Stowe, Crane and Faulkner.
    Second Semester: Fitzgerald, Lewis, Hemingway and Kerouac. :)

  8. Literature, in social studies? Why, you crazy interdisciplinarian devil you!

  9. Deb Geelsdottir

    No women Jason? Or is there one? Harriet Beecher Stowe? How about Toni Morrison? BTW, misogynist, overrated, compensator Hemingway stinks. In my opinion. Flannery O’Connor, Zora Neale Thurston? How about Gabriel Marquez? Other writers of color?

  10. One would think that in a state with so many daughters and sons of Norway and Sweden (me included), that socialism would be a “no-brainer” given that Norway and Sweden have the highest standards of living and happiness in the world. Such is the corrupting power of the Englisch invention of the profit-over-all corporation.

  11. Perhaps it was the impatient dolts who emigrated verses the patient nation builders. ‘eh?

    Where are the questions of the origin of modern South Dakota?
    What was the role of Verendrye brothers in the European recognition of modern South Dakota?

    What were the roles of the Treaty of Traverse de Sioux, 1851, Treat of Mendota, 1851, and the Sioux War have with the creation of the Dakota Territory?

    What were the outcomes of the Great Sioux War of 1862 on the formation, establishment, and settlement of the Dakota Territory?

  12. a down and dirty response via wiki is that about 1743 verendryes and a. miotte were tramping around North and South Dakota and perhaps near the Big Horns in Wyo. ( Amiotte is a well know creole or /french canadian name in Indian Country SD). Bordeaux was a trapper and trader in 1837 in Ft. Laramie and Chadron NE areas, and the fantastic Museum of the Fur Trade there (NE) today documents the dearth of the fur bearing trade in the west by about then. Many, many Indian people in SD have mixed french/canadian or creole descent.

    Military manipulation of reasons to remove the Indian residents from the territories was important to make room for white statehood. Lt. Grattan’s lame cow incident (Wyo.) was “justification” for Blue Water (NE) extermination conducted by Gen. Harney, 1855; likewise, gold at custer’s “grass roots” justified the 12.31.1875 dead-line of off-rez Indians as “hostiles, therefore under jurisdiction of War Dept.” so Gens. Custer, Terry, Gibbon and Crook could stage a slaughter of thousands of Indian people in the dakotas, wyo. and montana to make way for white invasion of “OUR SD BLACK HILLS WE LOVE SO MUCH” (C) KOTA ect.

    NE, SD, ND and MT statehood occurred around 1889-90, about the same time the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred to prevent the ghost dance.

    The 1980 supreme court case awarding some tribes $16 mill for the illegal “taking” (right!?-via a policy of genocide) only dealt with the 1868 treaty, i believe. Homestake alone “took” some $70 Billion in gold at current prices.

    (it would be interesting to compare the european influence of the french, canadians and creoles on SD in comparison to the norwegian, german and english ect.)

    this greater issue of reparations needs to be resolved with the Indian people yet today. The name change board had an opportunity to take a courageous stab at such a statement but flip/flopped, possibly under daugaard’s influence last month.

  13. 28. sure looks like fodder for socialistic, global climate change responses!! :)

  14. Don Coyote

    @Jason: “Zinn + Brown = Truth”. Hardly. Zinn, while a popular historian among credulous celebrities, embraces Marx’s creaky theory of historical materialism only serves to illustrate the old saying that “History has no sides, only historians do.” His work is intellectually shallow lacking in balance, academic rigor and research, shot through with errors and devoid of any nuance.

    And why would you include Dee Brown in your “calculation of truth”? A non-historian narrative that plagiarized other’s work, failing to provide sources and lacking totally in any balance. Yeah, that’ll be a great example for our kids.

    As a counterweight I would recommend Paul Johnson’s “A History of the American People” and James Clifton “The Invented Indian”.

    @Cory: “Explain how supply and demand influences sellers in markets (ah, capitalism!)”
    Supply and Demand is hardly unique to capitalism. Oskar Lange’s model of market socialism uses neo-classical price theory and supply and demand in a planned economy foregoing the use of the discredited Marxist labor theory of value.

  15. larry kurtz

    This Week’s Show – Jefferson and Literacy (7-19-15): Dr. Kim Crowley speaks with President Thomas Jefferson about literacy in America during his time and ours.

  16. Don,
    You won’t find any personal finance content in the math standards. They are traditional algebra, geometry, trigonometry, precalculus, statistics. Personal finance is more of a business course, not really “math” at all. (according to math standards)

  17. Thanks, Cindy! I knew we could find a math standards expert! The absence of finance from Common Core makes an interesting point. Finance doesn’t make the cut as a “Core” issue. Thus, when the big tests that make the papers all revolve around the Common Core standards, schools will focus on those core skills at the expense of “add-ons” like finance, civics, art, and foreign language… which we all know are much more than add-ons.

    I wonder: do the business teachers have a big set of standards? If so, what finance objectives and skills do they cover?

  18. Personal finance used to be taught in home economics now FACS (Family and Consumer Science). In the era of Common Core, we have seen a narrowing of the curriculum and an emphasis on CC (tested) content. Many FACS offerings have fallen by the wayside as enrollment dropped precipitously. If every student must be “college and career ready,” there is just not enough time in the school day.

    AFAIK, there are no required standards for business teachers.

  19. I might have to try teaching business on my next gig.

    Balancing a checkbook, handling a mortgage, sewing buttons, managing a household budget… all essential skills, all worth some classroom time… and apparently all pushed aside by too much focus on Common Core standards and standardized tests. This isn’t a finance issue, just a focus issue.

  20. Douglas Wiken

    Cory, too many years before Common core standards, those topics were never taught. Common Core has nothing necessarily to do with the “omissions”.

    What kids need is a course explaining the differences between easily reversible personal decisions and personal decisions which can lead to a life of never-ending costs and waste. The “checkbook” issue is one of those. Destroy your credit rating and you may never be able to buy a house, car, etc. Get drunk and drive and you may suffer the same undesirable consequences of end up dead yourself. Screw around with some jackass and get pregnant and your whole live may take a turn for the worse.