by Bridget Starrs
In a white paper released today by the Pioneer Institute in Boston, entitled “No Longer a City on a Hill: Massachusetts Degrades its K-12 History Standards”, education policy experts outline a strong case against the 2018 rewrite of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework. The paper examines the politicized, progressive bent of the proposed changes and argues that the curriculum rewrite “eviscerates” the standards for history education previously used by the state, which were widely acknowledged as among the best in the nation.
“It’s truly a travesty to see the loss of curriculum standards that helped catapult Massachusetts to national leader in education,” paper co-author and American Principles Project senior fellow Jane Robbins stated. “First the state replaced its excellent English language arts and math standards with Common Core, and now it discards its stellar history standards in favor of progressive propaganda.”
The report identifies several aspects of the proposed changes that represent a degradation of Massachusetts’ previous high standards. For instance, while the state’s 2003 curriculum presented history in chronological order, the 2018 revision presents history in incoherent fragments — giving chronological primacy to the Civil Rights era over the Founding era, to take one example. Lengthy descriptions of course standards, increased by 50 percent since the 2003 framework, add to the incoherent nature of the new curriculum.
In addition, the 2018 revisions largely replace the previous framework’s in-depth narrative of European and American history with a significant emphasis on modern protest movements, spending substantial time on immigrants’ rights, disability rights, and gay rights, while breezing through instruction on the Constitution and its ratification. The revisions also eliminate mandatory statewide MCAS history assessments, thereby diminishing the relevance of the subject and removing the right parents once had to “judge how well Massachusetts schools taught history”.
The report argues that these framework changes “consistently distort history to fit modern-day progressive educational dogmas”. As the emphasis switches from rigorous instruction on history to instructions on “civic engagement” and “service-learning”, it becomes evident that schools are more concerned with shaping political activists than historically-literate and informed citizens of a democracy.
In response, the paper’s authors offer specific recommendations for revitalizing Massachusetts’ formerly high standards for history instruction. Any new framework should preserve the chronological order of American and European history and provide clear cut history standards, the authors contend. It is also recommended that greater emphasis be placed on the concepts of economic and political liberty, individual rights, the republic, and national unity. Instruction should include suggested primary sources to balance opposing viewpoints, and mandatory history assessments should be implemented again. The report also suggests additional historically relevant topics to include in future revisions, such as the role of DNA analysis in early human history, the rise of China as a economic competitor, and the historic development of Islamic belief.
The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote on whether to adopt the 2018 curriculum revisions next Tuesday, June 26.