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The Manhattan Institute Discusses Civics Education and CCSS
posted by: Melissa | November 27, 2013, 02:37 PM   

To anyone interested in the teaching of social studies and civics, it is no surprise that the public has mixed opinions when it comes to this highly important subject.  On one hand, people seem to be growing more and more distressed at the lack of civics and history knowledge among the population. It seems that almost every week there’s some sort of news article or study pointing out how much Americans don’t know, soon followed by a cry for more civics education in schools.

On the other hand, education officials seem determined to keep schools on the same path that led to the current state of affairs.  History, government, and geography along with other topics, have long been lumped into the single subject of social studies.  The subject is often acknowledged as a core subject area but is often not tested or given the same weight in policy areas that English-language arts, mathematics, or science is.  For example, while there are the Common Core State Standards for language arts and math, and the Next Generation Science Standards for STEM areas, it’s now been announced that there will be no standards to cover social studies.


In light of our country’s vacillating attitude toward civics education, the Manhattan Institute recently convened a panel to discuss the current state of affairs.  The panel was held earlier this month, on Veteran’s Day, and included speakers from the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the College Board, Democracy Prep Public Charter Schools, and a former National History Teacher of the Year.

As with any discussion about curriculum over the past couple of years, the role that Common Core would play was at the heart of the issue.  Surprisingly, while teachers of other subject areas can sometimes be skeptical about the influence that Common Core will have, all of the panelists–teachers and curriculum writers alike–were positive about the changes that Common Core was bringing to the table.  Many of the panelists saw the Common Core standards as a way to focus on content and allow for the teaching of a myriad of subjects.

One panelist even read the following quote from the standards: “…Furthermore, while the standards make references to some particular forms of content, including mythology, foundational U.S. documents, and Shakespeare, they do not—indeed, cannot—enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn. The Standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum consistent with the expectations laid out in this document”

While panelists were positive about the promise of the standards, they were wary of the emphasis on testing, and of subpar materials that claimed to be content rich.

You can watch the entirety of the panel on the Manhattan Institute’s website.


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