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Proposed social studies standards support diverse viewpoints

Posted at 11:15 AM, Oct 04, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Proposed social studies standards for Nebraska schoolchildren would encourage them to look at history from multiple perspectives, including those of religious, racial and ethnic groups, women, LGBTQ people and Native American nations.

The draft proposal was written by a group of Nebraska educators and suggests what students should learn in history, government, civics, geography and economics.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that the standards adopted in 2012 encourage examining history from different perspectives. The new proposal emphasizes the importance of understanding different points of view and provides examples as emphasis.

Cory Epler, chief academic officer in the Nebraska Department of Education, said the increased emphasis reflects the agency’s commitment to equity.

Students should be able to see themselves in the standards, Epler said, adding that the standards also should “create a window for students to see other students.”

The draft standards specify that marginalized groups may view historical events differently. For example, historians have recounted over the years how European settlers tamed the wildness that became the United States. But would Native Americans have the same perspective on how those settlers, soldiers and government agents treated the tribes and people who lived on the land? The draft notes the history of Native Americans’ forced removal and relocations.

The draft standards also include the addition of Will Brown as an example of a Nebraska resident who was important to the state’s past. Brown was a black man lynched in a 1919 Omaha. He was accused of raping a white woman but never stood trial. Thousands of white people stormed the courthouse, set it on fire, lynched Brown and desecrated his body.

The Ten Commandments appear in a draft section dealing with the foundations, structures and functions of governmental institutions. Under the standards, sixth graders would study the development of written laws. The commandments are among examples that include the Code of Hammurabi and ancient Greek democracy.

Economics lessons would put greater emphasis on financial literacy. Topics would include world trade and using a debit card.

If the draft is approved by the Nebraska State Board of Education next month, school districts would have a year to adopt the standards or their own of equal or greater rigor. The courses, materials and lessons for teaching the standards are up to local districts.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,