New York, NY; February 14, 2023 – The Civics Alliance has just published the American Birthright Taskforce Act, drafted by the National Association of Scholars. The Act provides model language so that state policymakers can create a social studies task force, appointed by the governor and the state legislature, to draft social studies standards based on American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards. State policymakers may use this Act to establish American Birthright directly, rather than work through (too-often heel-dragging) state education departments.
State academic standards are the single most influential documents in America’s education system. State education departments use them to provide guidance to each public K-12 school district and charter school as they create their own courses. State standards also influence what textbook authors write and what assessment companies such as the College Board test for in their advanced placement examinations. They affect teacher training and they provide the framework for teachers’ individual lesson plans. Private schools and homeschool parents also keep an eye on state standards.
The Civics Alliance has recommended that states should reform their social studies standards according to the model provided by American Birthright, which teaches students to identify the ideals, institutions, and individual examples of human liberty, individualism, religious freedom, and republican self-government; assess the extent to which civilizations have fulfilled these ideals; and describe how the evolution of these ideals in different times and places has contributed to the formation of modern American ideals.
“The American Birthright Task Force Act provides state legislators model language for how to enact a version of American Birthright,” said David Randall, Executive Director of the Civics Alliance.
The Act creates a social studies task force, appointed by the governor and the state legislature, to draft social studies standards based on American Birthright—and which therefore can be tailored to suit the state’s own needs. The task force provides an opportunity for public input, its work product has to be approved by the education committees of both legislative houses, and every member of both legislative houses will have a chance to move amendments of the standard in detail. If the standards pass by concurrent resolution in both legislative chambers, then they are in effect for five years—at which point, they will be subject to review by a new task force.
We specify that the standards must receive the approval of the education committee in each legislative house. States which divide responsibility for K-12 education among multiple committees should adjust the model text to ensure that the task force reports its draft standards to every K-12 education committee.
The American Birthright Task Force Act allows state policymakers to move the power to draft state social studies standards from reluctant state education departments to a committee of their own choice—but it makes sure that the task force will be accountable to state policymakers, that a broad consensus of state policymakers approve the final standards, and that the public will have opportunities to provide input upon the standards. The use of concurrent resolution allows for the standards to be approved swiftly and efficiently, once they have received the approval of a consensus of policymakers.
“Different states have different political complexions,” Randall cautioned. “This model bill is best suited for states where the governor and both houses of the legislature all are committed to education reform. Policymakers in each state should judge whether the political conditions in their states are appropriate for the introduction of the Act.”
Where states are ready for education reform, we believe that the Act will give state legislators a flexible, accountable, and efficient way to restore public K-12 social studies instruction that teaches student’s America’s ideals and institutions of liberty.
Contact: David Randall, Executive Director, Civics Alliance, [email protected].