Nebraska students need to have a solid understanding of their state and country — the history, geography and economy as well as the fundamentals of government and good citizenship.
To that end, the State Board of Education — with wide-ranging contributions from Nebraska educators and outside consultants — has been working on new instructional guidelines for social studies for Nebraska’s public schools.
Recent changes are a significant improvement over the initial version. The adjustments provide more detail and specify major figures and events to be studied. They include practical instruction about the operations of markets and put a sensible emphasis on personal financial education.
Good: Middle schoolers will learn about entrepreneurship and how technology can transform an economy.
Good: High schoolers will learn about the importance of banking and the financial system; how market signals help companies decide what to produce and at what price; and how property rights, as well as their regulation through such things as zoning, are key parts of our society.
Good: Nebraska high schoolers will receive instruction about the uplifting parts of the American story and world history (the “unique nature of the creation and organization of the American government”; civil rights reforms; the fall of communism) as well as the discouraging parts (the Dred Scott decision; Jim Crow laws; the Holocaust). That’s a sensible, responsible approach.
Good: The guidelines list dozens of notable individuals and events to be included in Nebraska history (Standing Bear, Father Flanagan, Willa Cather and George Norris, among others), U.S. history (Thomas Jefferson and other founders, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan) and world history (Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela).
The current version of the proposals needn’t be the final word. A 30-day comment period for the public ends on Nov. 28.
Nebraskans can access them online at http://www.education.ne.gov/standardssurvey/. A copy also can be obtained by contacting Donlynn Rice at the Nebraska Department of Education, 301 Centennial Mall South, Lincoln, Neb., 69509.
On Thursday, the State Board of Education held a public meeting on the standards, and Nebraskans gave testimony at five locations across the state. After public comment, a final draft will be drawn up and submitted to the State Board of Education for approval in December.
There is still room for discussion, but with the new specifics now added, it looks like the process has addressed a lot of the past shortcomings. As public discussion continues, the Nebraska Board of Education should keep things moving in the right direction.