RALEIGH, N.C. (February 3, 2021) The Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity at the Public School Forum of North Carolina strongly supports the adoption of the revised state social studies standards that accurately and inclusively represent the complex past history and present-day realities of this country. These standards should include the terms “systemic racism,” “gender identity,” and “systemic discrimination,” as outlined in Draft 4. To adopt standards that do not reflect our whole history and the multitude of experiences of our increasingly diverse student population, which is now more than 50 percent students of color, would be a disservice to all students and would be detrimental to efforts to build a more equitable society.
Inclusive Curriculum Supports Student Outcomes.
Additionally, adopting Draft 4 of these standards would be an important step in moving toward culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy. Research shows that curriculum that draws from and honors the cultural knowledge and understandings that students bring into the classroom can improve students’ brain processing, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills; strengthen their racial and ethnic identities; promote feelings of safety and belonging; and can increase engagement and motivation.
Students Understand This.
As expressed by members of the State Board of Education, America has a rich history that includes great triumphs over discrimination and oppression. When teaching about these victories, however, history lessons can frequently exclude or misrepresent the moments where we as a country have fallen short of the ideals of freedom and justice for all. Our students understand this, as evidenced by statements to the State Board of Education and in our Student Voices Webinar, What Does Culturally Responsive Curriculum Mean to Our Students?.
“We are ready to have these conversations and know what is going on, so we are already talking about these topics at the lunch table and with peers. We want our teachers to talk about these things and make space to bring us together and talk about hard things.”
— KaLa Keaton, Senior, Middle Creek High School
Recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the insurrection that took place in our nation’s capital and the many black and brown lives lost through police brutality, have further highlighted the systemic inequities affecting communities of color across this country. These events have not escaped the attention of our students, many of them being directly impacted by each of these events. Our students are capable of understanding the complexities of our nation’s historical and ongoing injustices while still celebrating the progress we have made towards equity and justice. More importantly, students are eager to have these discussions. By denying them the opportunity to do so, we also deny them their constitutional right to a sound basic education.
Educators Understand This.
Educators have been influential in shaping Draft 4 of the proposed Social Studies curriculum standards. More than 70 social studies educators from across the state, representing each of the eight SBE districts, were involved in the development of the standards. It is clear that they too understand the importance of creating a curriculum that addresses the realities of the systemic racism and inequities that exist in this country.
I think we can all agree that our American history is whitewashed and that’s exactly what we need to get away from. By introducing these new social studies standards, and by watching our words and by being intentional with what we say and how it’s written, that is how we move forward together. All the words that are being debated- they matter.
— Maggie Murphy, Regional Teacher of the Year, Allegheny County Schools
We must do what is in the best interest of all of our students—and what is supported by the broader education community. The review process for Draft 4 of the Social Studies Standards included extensive efforts to obtain feedback from the public, and a decisive eighty-five percent of respondents viewed the proposed standards favorably.
Inclusive Curriculum Can Benefit All Students.
The revised standards contained in Draft 4 represent an important step toward building a more inclusive, culturally responsive curriculum. However, we should not stop there. Too many of North Carolina’s students have been excluded from mainstream curriculum and pedagogy, and in order to ensure that our schools can better meet these students’ social, emotional, and intellectual needs, we believe that curriculum and pedagogy in all subjects should be made more relevant, engaging, and inclusive of North Carolina’s very diverse student population with respect to race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability, religion, geography, socio-economic status, and language.
We have made great progress in the movement toward a more just and equitable world, but we still have much more work to do. To quote the Center’s namesake, Dr. Dudley Flood, “The great motivator is possibility… we’re not there yet. We will get there, but we will only do that if we keep the faith and believe that there is a destination.”
Update: On Thursday, the State Board of Education voted to approve Draft 5 of the Social Studies Standards. This represents important progress toward a more inclusive social studies curriculum. The revised standards include the terms racism, identity, and discrimination, but do not include the terms systemic racism, gender identity, or systemic discrimination. We have more work to do, and we look forward to continued efforts from our state leaders to ensure that curriculum in all subject areas is culturally responsive, inclusive, and accurately representative of our country’s full, complex history.