Political divide emerges in Board of Education vote to veto conservative American Birthright social studies standards

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The state board of education voted 4-3 on Wednesday against adopting American Birthright Social Studies Standards from a national conservative coalition to guide Colorado educators who teach history, economics, geography and civics.

The board, which often has unanimous decisions on issues relating to assessments, teacher licensure and reading strategies, voted along partisan lines, with all four Democratic members opposing study standards social American Birthright of the Civic Alliance and three supporting Republicans.

“I see this proposal a bit like Swiss cheese in that it’s not all bad, but it’s full of holes,” said council chair Angelika Schroeder, a Democrat from Boulder representing the 2nd district of the city. Congress.

The last-minute proposal to replace Colorado’s social studies standards with American birthright standards, which emphasize Western civilization, American exceptionalism, patriotism and Christianity, would have effectively killed the job of a 37-member commission that worked on revising Colorado’s social studies standards. for a year and a half.

The state board debate included a member comparing the number of times “God” and “flag” featured in US birthright standards versus Colorado’s social studies standards, the revelation that A board member had researched the political affiliation of each member of the volunteer commission, and an apology from another board member to the commission members with a pledge to honor their work.

Colorado’s social studies standards are reviewed every six years. This year’s update meant they had to reflect five new Colorado laws. Wednesday’s debate over civics and media literacy standards is only part of the social studies review. In November, the board is expected to vote on changes to reflect another law. This requires schools to teach students about the history and contributions of people of color and LGBTQ people. This issue has generated the most controversy, with the commission removing many references to minority groups from the latest review. This state law created the commission, responsible for ensuring that the standards comply with the law.

Why was there a proposal to adopt American Birthright standards?

During Wednesday’s debate, Republican board member Debora Scheffel said Colorado received a D on its history and civics standards of a conservative-leaning think tank prompted her to push American Birthright standards. She said she tried to make large-scale changes to Colorado’s standards by changing the review process.

“I couldn’t do it and end up with an adequate, parsimonious document,” she says. “I tried and I have pages here of attempts to do it, but it just didn’t lend itself to it.”

She said Colorado’s standards lacked clarity, structure and organization, consistency and cohesion. She hoped American Birthright could be a starting point to build on.

“I feel like missing the opportunity to look at our standards holistically is a missed opportunity.”

Democratic board member Lisa Escárcega said Colorado received a D grade because the state doesn’t determine the curriculum, which individual school districts do, meaning history and standards state civics lack specificity compared to other states.

While board members thoroughly reviewed every line of the Colorado standards in the review process, there was little discussion of the US Birthright standards before a vote.

Escárcega said she had concerns about them just by looking at statements from Civic Alliance. It opposes pedagogies that include current affairs, project-based learning, civic engagement, current affairs learning, social-emotional learning, and any pedagogy that claims to reflect diversity, equity, inclusion, among others, she said. The Civics Alliance also opposes the federal government funding education.

“These standards are too extreme for the state of Colorado,” she said.

Other board members, however, are concerned that students’ ability to learn historical facts is being interfered with by other learning goals.

Republican Councilwoman Joyce Rankin said only 25% of high school students have mastered civics. She believes teaching strategies such as inquiry-based learning and teaching students about civic engagement get in the way of learning the basics.

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The state Board of Education is meeting Wednesday, Oct. 12 to discuss a list of revisions to its social studies standards, including a conservative civics curriculum called American Birthright.

Rankin noted that the word “constitution” occurs 111 times in the US Birthright standards but 24 times in the Colorado standards. The word “God” appears 12 times in American Birthright but never appears in Colorado standards, she said. She compared the frequency of other words such as “flag”, “media literacy” and “pledge of allegiance”.

One board member, Republican Steve Durham, alleged that the commission that worked on updating and revising the standards was biased.

“Would you like to guess the political affiliation of the 37 members? Durham asked board member Karla Esser. He said his “own research” showed the roster was more than two to one Democrat.

“The reality is that experts have biases, and that’s just a fact. These standards were not produced impartially. He later added, “I’m not even sure we even need standards, especially in these areas.”

He said he would like to see standards established around source documents and court decisions.

“Facts matter, timelines matter, and those are lost in the attempt to make it all identity politics.”

Democratic board member Rebecca McClellan apologized to commission members, stressing that their work is not a partisan set of academic standards. All Coloradans were invited to apply for membership on the commission two years ago, and the Department of Education selected the members through a blind review.

McClellan said commission members had diverse political affiliations and applied through an open process that did not discriminate.

“I also don’t think it’s respectful to take back a year of work they’ve done, in good faith with the support of our staff at the behest of this board and this department, just to throw away their work. “

After the American birthright standards were rejected, council member Rankin tried to change parts of the latest revision of Colorado’s civic standards.

She tried in vain to strip standards from the Declaration of Sentiments, a document credited by scholars with launching the long fight for gender equality, punctuated by the 1920 19th Amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage.

“I think they’re hurting our foundation and what our ancestors said,” she said.

She also attempted to change the language relating to students actively engaging as members of the community with different levels of government.

“It may be conjuring up a dangerous and dangerous situation. I think our high school kids should be more involved with pride in America and not (with) destroying some of the things that are already there,” Rankin said.

She objected to the inclusion in the standards of the Great Law of Peace, the oral history of the Iroquois Confederacy establishing democratic principles, some of which, a The US Senate resolution states were incorporated into the US constitution itself. Rankin said the Great Law of Peace was a “legend”.

“Have you ever played game phone where you start something and it goes around in circles and it goes back to first person and has nothing like they originally had? We don’t know how much of this legend… it hasn’t been written… I just think we need history. We come from Europe. We started like that.

His proposed amendments were defeated 4 to 3 – also along party lines. The state board can vote on the rest of the social studies standards at its next board meeting in November.

Partisanship is increasingly seeping into discussions at the state council, which has seven members corresponding to Colorado’s congressional districts. The November election could shift control of the party from Democrat to Republican, when the board expands to nine members. One of the new seats is at-large, representing the entire state.

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