Local News

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

Posted February 10, 2010 12:18 a.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2010 10:57 a.m. EST

— 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.