Request to Institute New US History/Government Curricula in Oklahoma High School Education
Due to the influx of studies reporting a lack of understanding of the Constitution of the United States by Oklahoma Public School children, and due to the increasing knowledge bank indicating that students are not being taught necessary Constitutional principles and values, we respectfully ask that a new History and Government Curriculum be instituted in Oklahoma High Schools. Julie McKenzie, M.S. Applied Health Science; MBA Jenni White, M.S. Biology 1. Reasons for Request of Constitutional Mandate a. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, OCPA, commissioned a national research firm, Strategic Vision, to determine Oklahoma public high-school students' level of basic civic knowledge. Ten questions, chosen at random, were drawn from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) item bank, which consists of 100 questions given to candidates for United States citizenship. Oklahoma high-school students scored alarmingly low on the test, passing at a rate of only 2.8 percent. www.news9.com/global/story.asp?s=11141949 b. The same study indicated that 75% of Oklahoma high school students couldn’t name the first President of the U.S. c. Currently, Oklahoma has a Constitution DAY. A 2007 USA Today article described a study that focused on journalism and the First Amendment. According to the study, 51% of high school students questioned had not heard of Constitution Day and just one in 10 students could remember how his/her high school marked the day last year. (Paid for by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2007-09-17constitution_N.htm?POE...)
d. The government belongs to the people so it is imperative that we understand it. We possess a high maintenance form of government that must continually be cared for by the people. The Declaration and Constitution are our birthright documents. It is necessary for citizens to understand these documents in order to preserve the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. 2. Current Oklahoma Public Schools High School History/Government a. After a short review of Oklahoma City area high school government/history courses, we found that all schools inventoried (MidDel Schools, John Marshall, Douglass) used PASS as their level of mastery. b. The State Department of Education PASS for Oklahoma high school Social Studies utilized extremely vague terminology. 3. PASS a. The following statement was found on page one: “The goal of civics and government is to develop informed, competent and responsible citizens who are politically aware and active and committed to the fundamental values and principles of American constitutional democracy.” i. What does “politically aware” mean? Marches, sit-ins? Is it the proper role of a teacher to influence or encourage political activity? ii. What are the “fundamental values and principles”? These are not outlined in the PASS. Are these up to the teacher to determine? The Constitution outlines fundamental values and principles specifically. iii. What is “American constitutional democracy”? We live in a REPUBLIC. A Republic is representative government ruled by law (the Constitution). A democracy is direct government ruled by the majority (mob rule). A Republic recognizes the inalienable rights of individuals while democracies are only concerned with group wants or needs (the public good). http://www.garymcleod.org/republic.htm 4. The term “American constitutional democracy” was found in "Education for Democracy” by Charles N. Quigley published on the website for the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). http://www.ppionline.org/ppi_ci.cfm?knlgAreaID=110&subsecID=181&contentI.. .
a. PPI's mission is to define and promote a new progressive politics for America in the 21st century. The institute points to a "third way" beyond the liberal impulse to defend the bureaucratic status quo and the conservative bid to simply dismantle government. According to the President and Founder of PPI, Will Marshall, The Institute also has been integral to the spread of "Third Way" thinking to center-left parties in Europe and elsewhere. http://www.ppionline.org/ppi_ci.cfm?knlgAreaID=87&subsecID=112&cont entID... 5. PASS contains 16 standards that include the following from Content Standard 2, which could be called into question as INFLUENCING students rather than TEACHING students: a. The student will analyze the impact of immigration, the settlement of the American West and industrialization on American society; 1B. Examine ethnic conflict and discrimination; b. 2D. Evaluate the rise of the Progressive Movement in relation to political changes at the national and state levels (eg, workplace protections, conservation of natural resources, increased political strength of third parties, the direct primary, initiative petition, referendum and recall) 6. Studies Regarding Current US Government/History Texts used for High School Courses (Culled from Eric Digest; High School Government Textbooks; Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, Bloomington, IN) a. “High school American government texts are designed for passive learning, transmission of facts and ideas rather than active involvement of learners in the pursuit of knowledge. Many themes, topics, and terms are mentioned, but few are developed in detail. The superficial survey of subject matter, rather than in-depth treatments of critical issues or core ideas, is the prevailing style of these books.” b. “High school government textbooks were roundly criticized in a study sponsored by People for the American Way (Carroll et al. 1987). The reviewers faulted the books for lacking a sound sequence of topics and ideas, covering too much information, avoiding in-depth discussions of important ideas and events, glossing over or omitting controversial topics, failing to emphasize citizen participation in a democracy, and ignoring opportunities to develop students’ capacities for criticism and creativity. The reviewers also blasted these textbooks for static and lifeless presentations of subject matter. They claimed that inherently interesting
subjects—politics, applications of law to daily life, public issues, governmental decisions, citizen action in community affairs—were shorn of dynamism and drama by tedious and simplistic prose presented in rigid formats.” c. Regarding teaching of the Constitution: “A major criticism in the textbook review sponsored by People for the American Way was inadequate treatment of values in the Constitution. Furthermore, the reviewers faulted the textbooks for failure to examine issues in United States history associated with core values of the Constitution. The reviewers concluded that “the books do not sufficiently emphasize the values and processes that have emerged from this document to shape our society, such as due process and equal protection” (Carroll et al. 1987, vi).” 4. Recommendations a. Mandate the use of a textbook such as “A Guide for Learning and Teaching The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution” by Joseph Andrews, The Center for Teaching the Constitution. (This book is produced to satisfy California Education Code, Section 51230 and can be purchased for $32.00.) A NON-State or Federal developed curriculum, produced by a non-profit, privately funded entity dedicated to teaching the founding documents of the United States of America must be used. b. Mandate the use of this specific curriculum in all 12th grade Oklahoma state public school history or government classrooms. i. Use of this mandated text would reduce stress for teachers/administration due to the fact that the curriculum is already developed, it simply needs to be taught in place of the individual Social Studies teachers’ curriculum independently developed and taught specifically to PASS. ii. Since Oklahoma Core Curriculum mandates 1 year of U.S. History and ½ to 1 year of U.S. Government and ½ to 1 year of electives in order to graduate, there would be ‘room’ in the school year to implement this study. c. Students must pass this course with a C average or better to obtain a high school diploma.
5. Precedents a. California mandates the exact recommendations given under California Education Code, Section 51230. The “Guide for Learning and Teaching the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution” was written and produced by the non-profit organization National Center for Constitutional studies to satisfy this mandate. b. Other similar school reform initiatives that have previously been instituted in Oklahoma include: i. Middle School Math Improvement ii. High School Testing Reform