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How U.S. History is taught could change in N.C.

Posted February 10, 2010
Updated February 11, 2010

— A new proposal for the history curriculum in North Carolina public schools is causing uproar. Among the biggest concerns is covering U.S. history only from 1877 to the present in the 11th grade.

“There's nothing on the Confederacy, nothing on Robert E. Lee, nothing on Abraham Lincoln, nothing on any battle, nothing on Reconstruction, nothing on the causes of the war, nothing on slavery – nothing on slavery anywhere in the curriculum,” said Holly Brewer, associate professor of early American history at North Carolina State University.

Brewer opposes the curriculum change and says students would not learn enough about important historical concepts like slavery.

The state Department of Public Instruction argues that students would learn about slavery and other pre-Reconstruction issues in the required civics and economics class.

Brewer disagrees and says it's not enough time to cover all that needs to be taught.

“How could you possibly do justice to that (slavery) if you just mention it in passing as you're talking about a civil rights struggle,” she said.

World history is currently taught in the ninth grade, civics and economics in the 10th grade and U.S. history, which now begins with the founding fathers in 1789, in the 11th grade.

Under the proposal's first draft, U.S. history would begin in 1877 so more time could be given to recent historical events, such as the Vietnam War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Those are the parts of history that our children don't get to," said Rebecca Garland, the chief academic officer for DPI. "That's the part they see on television every night, and that's the part they don't understand."

The proposal would also include revising the social studies standards in elementary and middle schools to provide more time to study U.S. history.

"One of the over-arching goals of the new curriculum standards was to give our students the opportunity to study U.S. history in depth and up to present day," Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson wrote in a Feb. 8 letter to lawmakers. "The proposed standard would add U.S. history at the elementary and middle school levels so that students would have studied the full scope of U.S. history twice before ninth grade."

Gov. Beverly Perdue said she doesn't support the idea.

"I’m surprised that anybody would want to take out the core of history content, and just the bold leadership and decision making that helped found a democracy from a group of ragtag British folks,” Perdue said.

DPI is receiving feedback on the proposal, which is slated for several rounds of revision.

A second draft of the proposal should be ready for the state Board of Education to review next month. It could be a year before a new curriculum is finalized, and any changes would not go into effect until 2013 or later.


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  • JohnFLob Feb 12, 2010

    Our history prior to 1877 is too critical to a proper appreciation of our values and many of the factors that has made out country great. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers and the persons instrumental in their creation are the foundations upon which our nation was founded. Are events such as the War of 1812 and the Dread Scott case now just anecdotal foot notes? How about Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address?

    Perhaps is a case of lazy educators that don't want to perform their job functions and fully earn their salaries.

  • Scare Crow Feb 11, 2010

    What differrence what they teach, judging from these comments nobody knows the real story anyway. Teachers will put their spin on it as well screwing it up even more. SO.....FORGET ABOUT IT!

  • frosty Feb 10, 2010

    A really stupid idea. History is something of a moving target anyway usually written by the winners. But recent history is really skewed because so much information is hidden to protect the living and at issue with those with an axe to grind. What happened here before 1877 is very important with how we got where we are.

  • 8th. N.C. Feb 10, 2010

    Never the less...The Union offered Slavery to the South forever.
    Somehow this type of "History" is never mentioned. Just making a point on how important it is to keep ALL of our history in schools. Ill bet that not a handful of people even has heard of this. I work at a High School in Durham, and I found that only one "History" teacher had ever heard of this. We need to teach COMPLETE history to our children instead of picking and teaching just what "Sounds good" True history is..the United States Congress pass a Amendment to the Constitution that would allow slavery forever as long as it was so wanted by anystate.
    Like it or not.

  • Plenty Coups Feb 10, 2010

    8th NC "So if the South w2as fighting for slavery..the war would have never happened because the North handed slavery to them on a platter."

    Incorrect, at that point it didn't matter. The South was more worried that with Lincoln's election, the pro slavery vote would be weakened in Congress and eventually abolished as Lincoln stated many times that he wouldn't allow slavery to expand to new states. This is what caused the immediate secession of Southern states. The North was merely attempting to keep the country together and out of a war. Again, the North wasn't fighting to end slavery-not sure why you and others keep trying to twist the argument that way. They were fighting to preserve the Union. But it still remains that the UNDERLYING cause of this was and remained slavery.

  • Plenty Coups Feb 10, 2010

    8th NC - "So if the South w2as fighting for slavery..the war would have never happened because the North handed slavery to them on a platter"

    It didn't matter to the South at that point. Lincoln was AGAINST the spread of slavery which would have eventually weakened the pro slavery vote in Congress. This the South couldn't live with. His very election caused them to secede.

  • robertcthomas Feb 10, 2010

    Its just another way to indoctrinate our children into secular humanism.

  • Plenty Coups Feb 10, 2010

    8th. N.C-No argument here that AT FIRST the North didn't want to abolish slavery. At that point, they were mostly interested in keeping the country together. However, in the end, one side supported not only slavery but also wanted it to spread and one side did not want it to spread but didn't want to immediately end it because it wanted to keep the country together. Also, I agree that more history should be taught. I love Civil War history ( I also love teaching it) and recognize that the average soldier couldn't care less about slavery. I would hope the High Schools would teach 2 semesters of US History from the beginning of US History to 1877 and then 1877-present. That might end this ill conceived DPI curriculum change. I suspect though, that there is more emphasis on reading and math testing that precludes history.

  • ladyblue Feb 10, 2010

    Why is this Dr Brewer only concerned with the slavery issue not being spoken. She said it enough times in this. what about he colonies and all the people who founded the laws of the land. What a bout the struggles of what happened to Indians when we took everything they had. Gees. Guess they want to say that nothing existed again. I rather have it labeled out in plans of what can be taught because if they leave it up to teachers to pick and choose if we're going to touch on these subjects suppose one teacher only talks about the slavery in their class and nothing else in the time era. (esp. with this Dr brewer only mentioning her concern for that two or three times in article). Would that be fair?? this is just ridiculous. All children need to know their roots and this country's foundations.

  • 8th. N.C. Feb 10, 2010

    Passed by a joint Resolution of Congress on March 2nd. 1861 by a vote of 133 to 65 a Two thirds margin..stated that " No Amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will Authorize or give to the Congress the Power to Abolish or Interfear whithin any State, with the Domestic Institutions thereof, Including that of persons Held to Labor or Service by the Laws of said State." This was signed by Mr.Lincoln himself.
    He mentions this in his first Inaugural Address when he states " I have no objection to its being made express and Irrevocable. Only two states passed it into law. BOTH Northern States..Maryland and Ohio. Every Southern Staten threw it into the trash can. So if the South w2as fighting for slavery..the war would have never happened because the North handed slavery to them on a platter. Likewise if the North was fighting to free the slaves, the offer would have never been made.