Wednesday, September 11, 2013

California must change its history books before adopting Common Core.

    California  is  at an important tipping point.  I and my graduate students  participated in the 2009  efforts to revise the History/Social Science  curriculum frameworks and frankly the issue of Mexican American history was marginalized.  It will require  some effort to change this.  It is important to intervene soon.  Once the national common core standards begin adopting History/ Social Science, the new standards  will  most likely integrate the existing state  standards- which ignore Mexican American/Latino history.  The inadequate 1986 History/ Social Science Framework  will become the national standards and will continue for another decade.  New York is currently revising their civic standards to prepare for inclusion in the common core. To this date we have been unable to interest legislators in responding to this problem.  See more here
    Students need to see themselves in the curriculum in order to believe they have a stake in the society. Textbooks for  California schools are selected by the State Board of Education based upon recommendations of their Curriculum Committees and the state frameworks and standards.   The current Framework reflects the historiography of the 1950’s. It was written in 1986 by senior scholars, they in turn were educated in the early 1970’s or before. It is substantially out of date. 

    Standards and frameworks are products of the people who make the decisions. Frameworks like  standards pick winners and losers;  the choices which committees make favor one group over another group.  These choices are based upon the political power of those represented on the committees.  The Framework is  supposed to be revised each 7 years but it has not been revised.  The current Framework reflects the historiography  of the 1970’s  and the political balance of power of the 1980’s.
   During the winter and spring of 2009, a committee of teachers and other educators appointed by the State Board of Education met to review the current History-Social Science Curriculum Framework and to recommend revisions.  The committee met in a series of two-day public sessions  which were well attended by professionals and civic advocates, including myself, a representative of MALDEF, and other  concerned with the content of history and social studies education in California.
The 1987 California Framework still in use today  expanded African American, Native American, and women’s history coverage but remains totally inadequate in the coverage of Latinos and Asians. The only significant change between the 1985 and the 2005 adopted Framework was the addition of a new cover, a cover letter, and a photo of Cesar Chavez.
   When the 48.72 % of students who are Latino , and the 11.5 % who are Asian do not see themselves as part of history,  for many their sense of self is marginalized.   Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school and their success at school.  It contributes to an up to  50% drop out rate for Latinos and some Asian students.  An accurate history  would provide some students with a  a sense of self, of direction,  of purpose, even a sense that  they should stay in school and learn more. History and social science  classes  should help young people acquire and learn to use the civics  skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.   Instead, the current history textbooks tell a fairy tale of what happened here in the Southwest.
     Working through our Education and Democracy Institute and the Mexican American Digital History effort, we hope to advance the revision of the state framework in a manner that includes Mexican American/Latino history.  We seek assistance from others of good will.   In our view, this is an essential part of civic learning.  
  For example, several current civic learning projects focus on registering 17 and 18 year olds to vote.  As we know, some 30% or more of Latino youth have already left school long before they reach registration age.  If students  don’t feel that they belong, that their history is part of the California history, then they are unlikely to stay in school and even less likely to engage in civic  learning projects.
Duane Campbell

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