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Public school students would get a heavy dose of instruction in managing their money and would be encouraged to look at history from multiple perspectives under proposed new academic standards for teaching social studies in Nebraska.

The draft standards, released Thursday, would put greater emphasis on what educators call financial literacy, the knowledge of such things as personal budgeting, credit, auto loans and investing.

Harris Payne, director of social studies for the Nebraska Department of Education, said that the existing social studies standards touch on financial literacy but that the topic is “more robust” in the new draft and stronger in middle school grades.

Payne said looking at history from multiple perspectives is a skill for historians.

Officials said the proposed standards are “an update not a rewrite” of the existing standards adopted in 2012. Those standards were “an excellent starting point,” but the draft standards are better organized and will be more useful to teachers, he said.

The drafters worked to make sure that the standards aligned with the state’s multicultural education law, he said, for instance including more examples aimed at prompting students to explore the Native American perspective of historical events.

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The public is invited to offer comments on the updated standards, which include:

» ‘Marginalized groups’: Students should explore how “marginalized groups” such as Native Americans, immigrants and people of various sexual orientations and gender identities might view historical events differently.

» Climate change: The topic appears in the draft standards, in the geography section, and is no longer described as a theory, a change from current standards.

The existing Nebraska standards call on students to evaluate “recent global climate change theories, and evidence that supports and refutes such theories.”

Nebraska’s 2017 science standards address climate change as well, calling on students to analyze climate data and global climate models to forecast the rate and scale of global or regional climate changes.

» ‘Civic engagement’: The draft standards put greater emphasis on such activities as advocating for personal rights and the rights of others, volunteering and influencing government. The term “civic engagement” is mentioned only briefly in existing standards.

» Socialism: The drafters steered clear of the national debate surrounding socialism, a discussion that’s been fueled by the election of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist.

President Donald Trump has vowed that “America will never be a socialist country.”

The word socialism does not appear in the draft standards.

The current standards make only a passing reference to socialism, and that reference doesn’t characterize whether socialism is a good or bad government policy. The current standards state that students will “discuss various philosophies regarding governments’ role in an economy (e.g., capitalism, socialism).”

Under LB 399, passed this session by state lawmakers, high schools are required to teach about “the dangers and fallacies of forms of government that restrict individual freedoms or possess antidemocratic ideals such as, but not limited to, Nazism and communism.”

State law requires the Nebraska Department of Education to update its standards every seven years.

The draft standards were written by a group of Nebraska social studies educators selected by Nebraska Department of Education officials. The group included teachers, administrators, college representatives and staff from educational service units.

The standards describe what K-12 students are expected to know and do in social studies.

The standards cover civics, economics, geography, U.S. history and world history.

Cory Epler, the department’s chief academic officer, said the draft standards are more focused than in the past but are “not perfect” at this stage. He said he expects to edit them in the coming months based on public input.

In an introduction to the draft standards, the drafters emphasize that the standards represent a framework upon which school districts would build their curriculum. A curriculum is more detailed and includes the books, videos, readings, materials and lessons for teaching the standards.

If adopted by the State Board of Education, the standards would replace the 2012 set.

Districts must adopt the standards or their own of equal or greater rigor.

The release of the draft standards kicks off a public comment period, after which the state board will consider adoption, probably in the fall.

The complete text of the draft standards can be found here.

The department is running a survey on the website, through which people can submit comments. The public can also email comments to nde.standardsinput@nebraska.gov or mail comments to Nebraska Department of Education, 301 Centennial Mall South, Lincoln, NE 68509.

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joe.dejka@owh.com, 402-444-1077

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Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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