Rhode Island's Wild RIDE, Florida's AP Battle, and more

David Randall

Resolute is the Civics Alliance’s newsletter, informing you about the most urgent issues in civics education. Above all, Resolute will provide information about federal and state legislation that seeks to impose action civics, or to preserve traditional civics.

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There’s news from around the nation! The Civics Alliance has critiqued social studies standards in Rhode Island and Arkansas, Tennessee’s draft standards will be public soon, and there are battles in Florida and Virginia. And even more updates …

Rhode Island: Taken for a RIDE

The Civics Alliance and the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity have just published Taken For a RIDE: How Rhode Island’s Social Studies Standards Shortchange Students. This report provides a detailed critique of Rhode Island’s Social Studies Standards (2023), which fail to achieve the fundamental goal of American social studies education, and outlines both how RIDE produced these Standards and the substantive result.

The Standards were produced by undemocratic means, drafted in an unreadable format, and suffused with radical jargon. They teach a tattered caricature of history and civics, which will produce unpatriotic revolutionaries rather than self-reliant citizens who love their country. We recommend that Rhode Island’s citizens and policymakers secure accurate, professional social studies standards by fixing the adoption process and the substance of Rhode Island’s social studies instruction. Rhode Island should model new standards on American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards, adopted to fit Rhode Island. New statutes also should include increased public review and comment in the standards adoption process, increased power for the public and elected officials to veto the RIDE bureaucracy, and a guarantee to school districts that they can opt out of RIDE standards.

Arkansas: Social Studies Comment

Arkansas’ Department of Education adopted a new social studies standard in December—without allowing for a public comment period. It has some good substance, but most of the structural distortions make it impossible to have really good social studies. The Civics Alliance and the National Association of Scholars sent an open letter to the new Arkansas education secretary, Jacob Oliva, saying that,

1. the Department’s standards adoption process does not meet acceptable standards of openness and public accountability;

2. the basic structure of the Standards, particularly the requirement that it conform to the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, requires Arkansas to provide inferior and politicized social studies instruction; and

3. the Standards include a substantial amount of solid factual content, but teachers will not be able to make proper use of this content until the Department reforms the Standards’ larger structure.

We believe that Governor Sanders and Secretary Oliva can and should make social studies reform a priority, so as to fulfil their larger commitments to education reform. We urge Arkansas members of the Civics Alliance to get in touch with the Sanders administration and Secretary Oliva, to pass on the same message!

Tennessee Social Studies Standards: Participate!

The Tennessee State Board of Education is opening up their social studies standards review for a second round of public comment:

The public feedback survey will open at 12:01 am on February 27th and stay open until 11:59 pm on March 26. This is an opportunity for the Tennessee public to share their thoughts and ideas on the proposed social studies standards. These proposed revisions were created by teams of expert educators from around the state taking into account the first public feedback survey which ran from June 20, 2023 to July 18, 2023 garnering mare than 114,000 comments by Tennesseans. More information on this process can be found here and here.

Tennessee will post a PDF of the proposed standards—which we will share. But we alert Civics Alliance members in Tennessee to be prepared to look at the proposed standards as soon as they are public on February 27, and to be ready to comment. If you wish to coordinate with the Civics Alliance, please get in touch with David Randall ([email protected]).

Florida AP Battle Continues

Governor Ron DeSantis’ war with the College Board over AP African American Studies continues unabated. The National Association of Scholars has written that the entire discipline of African American studies is fundamentally politicized, and that no course in African American studies (or any of the kindred activist “studies” disciplines) should be given any government money or sanction. Whether or not Governor DeSantis shares our beliefs, the College Board’s stubborn insistence on preserving a particularly radical version of AP African American Studies may lead Florida permanently to bar the course. We hope that this ends up being the case—and we hope that other governors around the country will also challenge the College Board, which has been systematically radicalized.

Virginia Education Board Member Denied Confirmation After Criticizing Socialism

That’s the Breitbart headline—and it summarizes what happened succinctly.

The amendment to strip [Suparna] Dutta of her nomination comes after a tense discussion at last week’s board meeting, where she stated that socialism and communism are “incompatible with democracy and individual freedoms” and that the “Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are remarkable documents.”

Board member Anne Holton stated that she was “uncomfortable” with Dutta’s statements. “You cannot reference the Declaration of Independence and Constitution as remarkable documents without also acknowledging that they contain fundamental flaws of enshrining slavery and limiting the protections that they provided for only to white, propertied men,” she added.

The Civics Alliance regrets that Ms. Dutta cannot continue to serve on the Virginia Board of Education—and, of course, we find it astounding that an American state legislature should find such obvious truths a sufficient cause to justify voting not to confirm her. Their action confirms the need for social studies reform throughout America.

Potential state board members should not take Ms. Dutta’s unsuccessful confirmation as a cue for self-censorship. Ms. Dutta was correct, and we need 1,000 Duttas on our state boards—and governors who will nominate them, and state legislators who will confirm them. What happened in Virginia tells us the scale of the challenge we face. We must and will work harder.

State Legislation

We cannot evaluate the political prospects of every new bill that appears on our Civics Bill Tracker—not least because state legislatures are savage jungles where even likely bills sometimes get ambushed! But we will mention that Missouri’s Senate Bill 4 seems like a good example of a thoughtfully comprehensive bill, which strengthens parental rights, increases administrative and fiscal transparency, bars discriminatory concepts (CRT), and strengthens instruction in our documents of liberty. Education reformers should look at bills such as Missouri’s Senate Bill 4 to get a sense of what comprehensive reform legislation might look like.

We’re also delighted that a great many states have introduced bills that parallel our model School Board Election Date Act. By our count, recent bills to reform school board election dates include: Florida HB 477; Florida HJR 31; Florida SJR 94; Indiana HB 1074; Indiana SB 188; Kentucky HB 50; Kentucky SB 50; Mississippi HB 560; Mississippi HB 1312; Missouri SB 202; Missouri SB 234; Montana LC 1997; Oklahoma HB 1903; Oklahoma SB 1104; Texas HB 221; Virginia HB 1414; Virginia HB 1574; Virginia HB 1576; West Virginia HB 2327; and West Virginia HB 2849. Civics education reform requires dozens of bills in each state, each dealing with a different aspect of education reform. The sheer number of bills to reform school board election dates is a promising sign for education reform throughout the country.

Around the Nation

Civics Alliance State Affiliates

The Civics Alliance is building a network of state affiliates—groups dedicated to removing action civics in their state—whom we will list on our website. We now have nine affiliates, in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas. If you would like to form such an organization, or suggest an existing organization, please get in touch with David Randall ([email protected]).

Monthly American Birthright Zoom Meeting

The Civics Alliance will have its monthly Zoom session devoted to social studies standards reform on Monday, March 6, at 2:00 PM Eastern Time. Please email [email protected] if you would like to join these monthly Zoom meetings.

Social Studies Standards Revision Schedule

2023/Current: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky (partial), Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming.

2024: Alabama, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wisconsin

2025: Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas

2026: Colorado, Maryland, North Dakota, South Carolina

2027: Hawaii, Kansas

2029: Louisiana

2031: Illinois

No Revision Currently Scheduled: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri (but could change), New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington

Waiting Confirmation: District of Columbia (current process), North Carolina (2021)

Please email David Randall ([email protected]) if you are interested in further information about your state’s social studies revision process, and what you can do to participate.

Continuing Priorities: Federal Legislation

At the federal level, the Civics Secures Democracy Act threatens to impose action civics nationwide.

Public Action

We encourage Civics Alliance members to inform the public and policymakers about the stakes and consequences of action civics bills.

David Randall is Executive Director of the Civics Alliance and Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars.

Image: Adobe Stock

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