Students would be encouraged to look at history from multiple perspectives under a final draft of new Nebraska social studies standards released this week.
Several words and phrases appear in the draft that aren’t in the existing state standards, including LGBTQ, the Ten Commandments, Brexit, Apple Pay and hypernationalism.
Members of the State Board of Education will consider approving the standards next month.
The draft standards, written by a group of Nebraska educators, reflect what students should know about, and be able to do, in history, government, civics, geography and economics.
School districts must within a year adopt the standards or their own of equal or greater rigor. The state does not dictate curriculum — the courses, materials and lessons for teaching the standards. That is developed by local districts.
The new words and phrases are listed as examples to help teachers develop lessons around the standards.
While the current standards, adopted in 2012, encourage examining history from different perspectives, the importance of understanding different points of view is weaved throughout the latest draft, with examples to emphasize the point.
The draft standards specify that marginalized groups, another new phrase, may view historical events differently.
The draft mentions, for example, the perspectives of religious, racial and ethnic groups, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people and Native American nations.
LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or, in some usages, questioning.
Cory Epler, chief academic officer in the Nebraska Department of Education, said the increased emphasis reflects the department’s commitment to equity.
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Epler said students should have an opportunity to see themselves in the standards.
The standards, he said, should also “create a window for students to see other students.”
Native American tribes in Nebraska receive greater attention, particularly the history of their forced removal and relocation from other states to Nebraska.
Fourth graders, for instance, would identify key events in American history that shaped or were shaped by Nebraskans. Examples include the Ponca Trail of Tears, the Santee Exile and Winnebago Removal, and Native American boarding schools.
The Ponca Trail of Tears is mentioned in the current standards, but the Santee Exile and Winnebago Removal are new, as is the mention of boarding schools.
References to the tribes specify that their nations are sovereign, addressing a concern expressed by some tribal leaders that students don’t always understand the concept of sovereignty.
Harris Payne, the department’s director of social studies, credited tribal advocates for providing input that led to those additions.
The draft standards also include the addition of Will Brown as an example of a Nebraskan important to the state’s past.
Brown was a black man lynched in a 1919 race riot in one of Omaha’s darkest episodes.
During the riot, thousands of white people stormed the courthouse, set it on fire, lynched Brown and desecrated his body. They tried to hang the mayor when he attempted to stop them.
The standards mention immigration as a topic for examination.
Students would evaluate the impact of people, events and ideas, including various cultures and ethnic groups, on the U.S.
Students would “explain reasons for historical and present day migrations to and within the United States.”
Third graders would learn flag etiquette. The standards also reference the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court case West Virginia v. Barnette, in which the court said students couldn’t be forced to salute the flag.
Fourth graders would learn about Nebraska state government and the unicameral Legislature.
In fifth grade, students would “investigate and summarize” contributions that resulted in the foundation and formation of the U.S. constitutional government.
As examples, the standards note early state constitutions, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights and tribal constitutions.
Students would identify the structure and function of the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
They would examine the “unique nature of the creation of the United States leading to a nation based upon personal freedom, inalienable rights and democratic ideals.”
Economics lessons would put greater emphasis on financial literacy, addressing topics ranging from using a debit card or Apple Pay to world trade.
The Ten Commandments appears in a section dealing with the foundations, structures and functions of governmental institutions.
Under the standards, sixth-grade students would identify the development of written laws . The commandments are among the examples given, in addition to the Code of Hammurabi, Greek democracy, Axumite, Confucius and Indian deities.
Brexit — the United Kingdom’s scheduled withdrawal from the European Union pursuant to a 2016 referendum — appears in a section that calls on high school students to analyze the impact of trade policies such as tariffs and quotas . It suggests that students could research the North American Free Trade Agreement and Brexit.
The term hypernationalism is listed as a topic of exploration in high school.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines it as extreme or excessive nationalism. The word appears in a section where students would “examine the spread of cultural traits and the potential benefits and challenges of cultural diffusion, economic development and globalization.”
Socialism, injected into the national political scene by the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is dealt with in a manner similar to that in the existing standards.
It appears in seventh grade and high school standards as one of several economic systems to be compared and contrasted, along with traditional, market, communist, feudal and caste systems.
The standards do not characterize whether socialism is a good or bad government policy.
Payne said the standards emphasize inquiry, looking at social studies as “a verb instead of a noun.”
The standards also aim to give kids the skills and practices to prepare them for civic life and to be engaged citizens, he said.
“They should not only understand the jury system, and how our courts ... (are) set up, but they should also be able to serve on a jury and think critically about the information presented to them on juries and be able to make an informed judgment,” he said.