Michigan Social Studies Standards #whitewash by Dr. Rajah E. Smart
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
The social studies standards are going before the State Board of Education (SBE) on June 11, 2019. There has been much controversy surrounding these standards because they have been "modified" to serve students better. Insert sarcasm. The standards were whitewashed which loosely translated means to reject the accurate historical facts and replace with a preferred version of history and culture. This very behavior has been seen throughout the United States history with converting indigenous people and those that were enslaved. Their history was replaced with a preferred narrative.
The original standards were considered left-leaning or ant-Christian. Seems rather dramatic from those conservatives that changed the standards. Some of the issues with the original standards included removing the term democratic values to core values, as democratic is left-leaning. The 2018 draft of the standards also excluded climate change, Roe v. Wade, the Klu Klux Klan, Islam, #NAACP and other references to #civilrights, #LGBTQ rights (Barrett, 2019). After extensive push back, the standards have been modified to include a more generic approach but include a variety of examples for cultural inclusiveness (Laverty, 2019). The differences between Islam and Christianity and other worlds religions is included along with climate change, gay rights, and more.
While important items have returned to those standards, the bigger issue is the fact they were excluded in the first place. Remember folks, these are some of the people running the State of #Michigan. Not only does the media seek to rewrite the narrative but education has been doing so for years. We talk about how important it is to include relevant cultural material for children of color so they know where they come from but the practice is still active. I remember reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, stories by Zora Neale Hurston, Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and more. Those books and authors changed my life and passed down needed historical information we would lose if we relied on popular culture to educate us.
My point to all this is we have to pay closer attention to what is happening in our schools and to the material being taught. How can a student understand the depth of their culture if it is erased from history? The same effort we put into ensuring we watch our favorite television shows or attending concerts, the same effort must be in ensuring there is a legacy for children of color, disadvantaged children, etc. #Education is a reflection of our society and education is inequitable. How can we expect education to be equitable if society is inequitable? Inequities in this country have gone on far too long and those inequities are reflected in education (Hanauer, 2019). The narrative has to stop being changed. We saw this as well with #blacklivesmatter and with a certain athlete kneeling during the national anthem. The narrative is changed to fit an agenda. Even though the national anthem is not the black national anthem but that's another story. #LiftEveryVoice
The SBE is voting today, but I will more than likely be paying more attention to Benton Harbor Public Schools and their approach to the SBE. Last time, the meeting was long and contentious. Not sure it will be much different.