The impending Social Studies fiasco

Note: The following series of articles was prepared for the Rome (NY) Daily Sentinel. -- Stephen B. Waters, publisher

Dear readers:

Dissatisfied with arguments both for and against Common Core, we read the English Language Arts and Social Studies Frameworks documentation ourselves.

Studying “core” documents revealed that much of what was being passed off as Common Core was neither “common” nor “core.” Under cover of the worthwhile Common Core techniques to promote writing, reading, and conversation, Social Studies Framework authors expected this generation would leave content up to experts and, if they didn’t, that the concentrated educational jargon would fog them out before they discovered what was afoot.

Under the sensible basics of Common Core Standards, the English Language Arts and Math curricula use social studies readings to foster social transformation that voters never had a chance to approve. The Social Studies Framework accelerated attempts to reach a societal tipping point before their subterfuge was exposed.

The articles that follow show where knowledge has been elbowed aside from politicized and ineffective lessons. Properly taught, history, economics, and political theory offer useful patterns and principles that individual students themselves can validate.

It is not too late for education to recover. All it takes is a change of mind.

Table of Contents

1. Social Studies: To whom does an education belong

2. Social Studies: To educate or school

3. Social Studies: A culture war

4. Social Studies: Key understandings represent cultural biases

5. Social Studies: Unencumbered with principles

6. Social Studies: Irrelevant themes

7. Social Studies: Specifications that misdirect

8. Social Studies: Practices that obscure history

9. Social Studies: The battle for individuals in society

10. Social Studies: Centralized transformation is not education

Social Studies: Reviewing the ploy to transform schooling

Social Studies Frameworks examined

1. Social Studies: To whom does an education belong

[Article 1 of 10: Background for examining why the proposed Social Studies Frameworks should be abandoned.]

The framework for Social Studies now being adopted by states plays down history, economics, geography, and political theory.[1] In their place, it develops in impressionable youngsters a set of beliefs that engineer social transformation toward their approved version of “good citizens” aligned with international attempts to unify the world’s schooling.

Before the National Council for the Social Studies designed the new framework it never asked: Does an education belong to the individual or to the State. The result is an unworkable idea that vastly limits student opportunities and could cripple American culture for a long time.

Organizations that fostered Common Core dropped pursuing standards for social studies before the NCSS decided to continue on its own.[2] Their result by design seems mind-numbingly pedantic, decorated with Common Core Literacy Guidelines that mask the switch from useful knowledge to beliefs favored by authorities. A roadmap helps see a rough approximation of framework levels, state variations of which obscure how useful content has been replaced:

The framework that claims to make children “college and career ready” generates fog more likely to produce unanchored semi-articulate drones absent multi-disciplined lessons of experience that lead to wisdom.

Underneath it all, the framework teaches to meet official needs, not student needs. Students need to master basic principles of society, laws of economics, and development of political theory. They need to become astute enough to demand experts explain themselves clearly. Let’s return to examining the past for principles that help students deduce what they can know, how they should act, and how they should interact with others.

The framework is not the answer, nor is what has been recently taught insofar as academics are not alarmed at what is being attempted. The following series of articles explain why doing nothing is better than imposing the Frameworks. Doing nothing gives local districts the opportunity to compete in the crucible of competitive ideas for better alternatives.

Article topics include:

[Next article: Should classes educate or school?]

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2. Social Studies: To educate or school

[Article 2 of 10: Examines the complicated proposal to revise how social studies is taught and the unexpected and unacceptable consequence of the attempt.]

To whom does an education belong is the question that put Socrates’ life at risk. Athenians executed him in 399 BC for daring to ask. When schooling belongs to the state, authorities can mold students to maintain their power. When it belongs to individuals, they learn to recognize and defend against self-serving government. The Social Studies Framework (SSF) is the latest salvo in this ongoing war.

Magicians distract audiences with illusions. Framework designers distract using Common Core Literacy Standards. Lessons are chock full of material that masks that useful knowledge has been elbowed aside. Complexity covers behavioral training methods that reinforce feelings at the expense of reasoning. Rather than lift students up, the weight of the material keeps students down.

Just like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer enticed his friends to want to whitewash Aunt Polly’s fence, SSF advocates conned others to want to change the curriculum. They packed a vision of “college and career ready” full of requirements, key ideas, and themes all monitored by evaluations to measure “achievements”:

Everyone wins but students, cast deep into the fog by “critical thinking” far different from sound analytical skills. Absent foundational knowledge, students can’t mine history for useful patterns.

Too many teachers seem publicly unperturbed about the flaw. Many are more expert in teaching techniques than they are in history, economics, or political theory and much of what they have been required to teach has been peripheral.

Framework designers may not be ideologically driven. They simply may not believe independent individuals value community. They prefer docile conformity, not individual humanity allowed to mature. Citizens should expect real education would arm individuals to defend against such impostors who would chew them up for food.

[Article 3 will examine the social studies culture war at the lesson level. Further articles tease apart the social studies frameworks to show what has been perpetrated on the states.]

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3. Social Studies: A culture war

[Article 3 of 10: The previous article asked whether education belongs to the individual or the government. This article shows how Social Studies designers believe education belongs to the government.]

The Social Studies Framework has set up Grade 8 students to be targets in a culture war. The New York version mandates 72 requirements. All but two foster social transformation:

Eighth grade covers a rich period of the American experience, from the close of the Civil War to the present.

While some Americans across history have been poorly treated by the politics of the day, requirements don’t accurately map cultural experience. Dark chapters exist in American history, but they do not represent the entire book. Mandated curriculum requirements[3] repeatedly demean America. They elbow aside the wonderful things past Americans worked hard to achieve for their children. Students should be proud of American progress and the country’s standing compared to the rest of the world. Instead they are left embarrassed.

Social studies requirements are the operational level where content meets students. When those requirements are collected, repeated, tested, and assessed, the requirements are superficial, political, and self-serving. Rather than educate, framework training overwhelms useful patterns of experience and principles derived from them.

[Article 4 will examine explanations given by the Social Studies Frameworks to discover how they fail to justify what should be taught and maneuver their program astray.]

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4. Social Studies: Key understandings represent cultural biases

[Article 4 of 10: The previous article showed how a sample Social Studies unit indoctrinates students to feel embarrassed for America’s history. Those lessons took their lead from framework levels, including the top “Key Understandings” level that this article examines.]

The Social Studies frameworks (SSF) claim, “Meaningful social studies . . . are structured around enduring understandings . . ..”[8]

It’s circular reasoning to argue understandings are considered enduring because they have been popular and popular because they endure. History is littered with popular bad ideas. “Separate but equal” was once popular. Slavery denounced in lessons today might have been considered an enduring understanding in the 1859 social studies frameworks. Imagine teachers required to use then modern pedagogical techniques to drill slavery into yesteryear’s inquiring and eager young minds.

Popularity only means beliefs are well–known. Popularity offers neither validation nor justification. Modern packaging of bad ideas won’t make them any more significant.

Unexamined popular traditions imbedded into frameworks don’t offer students paths to determine their origin or why they have value. Platitudes aren’t principles. Beliefs aren’t principles. Clichés aren’t principles. What the frameworks assume to be principles are convenient fictions used to avoid principles. They don’t explain why notions matter or justify them with reasoning others could follow and possibly accept as their own.

To earn cachet as principles, ideas with potential grow from wisdom distilled from hard experience. Patterns that appear significant are then projected into hypothetical futures. Some imagined futures would be silly—Utopian models that collapse, unworkable even in dreams. Others show potential. Those that stand up against both the past and future serve as acting principles until fresh experience demonstrates the need to find something better.

Students develop maturity as they revalidate why certain ideas may be principles. As they become confident in their mastery, they can entertain challenges to them, even across cultures. Framework cultural “understandings” can’t be expected to transfer across cultural boundaries.[9]

The frameworks fail to establish persuasive connections with other cultures or individuals and visa versa. Students caught in frameworks multi–cultural moral relativism are left unarmed to defend against criticism by other cultures. The frameworks celebrates multicultural differences even as it wrongly presumes cross-cultural experience is uniform and enduring.

Revalidation is the responsibility of every individual. Each generation is obliged to revalidate the principles accepted as fundamental by previous generations in light of more recent experience. It is too important a task to be assigned to elite experts. The frameworks offer no path other than habit for a student to deduce their value or revalidate for the current generation their importance. Revalidation is not even a consideration.

Any worthwhile framework would teach the principle behind the enduring understanding. Students would revalidate the principle that validates the understanding. The frameworks should ask, “Why are traditional understandings foundational?” That they don’t ask sends the message that the framework designers don’t know.

[The next article continues to pursue how so-called “key ideas” and “compelling understandings” in the Social Studies Frameworks are unfounded, unprincipled noise.]

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5. Social Studies: Unencumbered with principles

[Article 5 of 10: The previous article took the Social Studies Frameworks to task for representing only cultural biases, not principles. This article pursues consequence of the absence of principles.]

For the Social Studies frameworks, democracy is vexing. Democracy is treated as a principle when it is only a process. Democracy doesn’t validate a proposition; it is a way to discuss it. Democracy codifies the humility that what one thinks just might be wrong. It codifies that even the smallest voice might suggest a better way to an audience tuned to hear it.

Yet for the frameworks, a democratic principle is one “that should guide the behavior and values of institutions and citizens in a democracy.”[10]

They assert as “principles” adherence to the social contract, consent of the governed, limited government, legitimate authority, federalism, separation of powers, equality, freedom, liberty, respect for individual rights, and deliberation. They don’t explain why. The New York framework asserts democratic principles include dignity for all, equality, fairness, and respect for authority and rules. Such assertions are dangerous because, for instance, diversity is popularly encouraged to a degree that suggests groups have privileges beyond what is extended to individuals.

Frameworks across the states examine the requirements for living in a democracy but leave unexamined why one should want to do so. The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) framework wants lessons to explain how a democracy relies on people’s responsible participation. The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Executive Summary theme, “Civic Ideals and Practices”, wants students to learn the “rights and responsibilities of citizens of a democracy.”[11]

Authorities have come to promote democracy as if it were a good in itself. More dangerously, political habit has come to treat democracy as if it legitimizes policy. It does not. History is replete with examples the tyranny of the majority. Approval by a majority only signifies that something is popular, not reasonable or justified.

A major theme of education should be to teach students to detect the difference between a real principle and a false bloom. Anything less is schooling, not education. Frameworks ideas blossom from cultural experience making them simply so-called natural law, unable to explain where principles and ideals come from or why they should be held. The frameworks do not explain how, if American culture arrived at certain principles, those principles resolve when they compete with other principles at home or abroad. The frameworks are blind to the underlying society that holds different cultures together, allowing them to deal across their cultural boundaries.

The Social Studies Frameworks bandy about “Key Idea” and “Compelling Understanding” concepts erroneously labeled principles. Still others are labeled virtues with no other justification than assertion. The frameworks presume authorities are authorized to determine the common good. They would have students believe experts know principles when they see them, even if ordinary citizens don’t.

[Next article: Social Studies Frameworks “themes” are claimed to unify useful ideas. Instead, they obscure in so many ways.]

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6. Social Studies: Irrelevant themes

[Article 6 of 10: The previous article exposed that even the concept of democracy is not well presented in the Social Studies Frameworks. This article will examine how Frameworks Themes obscure.]

The Social Studies Frameworks themes[12] are supposed to unify but don’t. They offer no useful concepts for students to revalidate and call their own. They rehash subjects and popular notions and misdirect attention away from useful lessons of history, economics, and political theory:

Theme 1, Culture [NYS: 1. Individual Development and Cultural Identity], resigns itself to moral relativism absent a viable path toward peaceful problem resolution and also presumes group identity matters more than individual identity.

Theme 2, Time, Continuity, and Change [NYS: 3], presumes the present day to be the end point rather than just another point along a continuum from the past, through the present, to the future. The missed precept makes institutions, values, and beliefs abstract and distant.

Theme 3, People, Places and Environments [NYS: 4. Geography, Humans, and the Environment], The frameworks don’t use maps as metaphors for necessarily incomplete mental map every individual uses to make decisions. Once understood that “Sometimes you think you are correct, not because you are correct, but simply because you think you are correct”, humility and respect for others become the cornerstones of society.

Theme 4, Individual Development and Identity [NYS: 2. Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures], Substitutes external socialized behavior when the individual should be the primary theme. Traction comes within the personal perspective to ask: What can one know? How should one behave? How should one interact with others?

Theme 5, Individuals, Groups, and Institutions [NYS: 5. Development and Transformation of Social Structures] retreats to the inadequate Greek view that cultural groups define individuals and group activities develop good citizenship. That overlooks that when individuals recognize their limits, they have compelling reason to socialize with others.

Theme 6, Power, Authority, and Governance makes no distinction between culture and society, which is necessary to overcome moral relativism between cultures. The minimum behavior at the edge where any two individuals or any two cultures meet, defines what is required to legitimize governments, understand limits, and recognize abuse.

Theme 7, Production, Distribution, and Consumption [NYS: 8. Creation, Expansion, and Interaction of Economic Systems] presumes economics requires a “system”. If individuals decide to do what they are good at and swap surpluses to mutual benefit, that is a fact, not a theory and not a “system.” Economic effects are in play whatever a government might plan. Structure need not be governmentalized because trade is the result of human action but not human design. The theme ignores unexpected consequences of over-organization, whether regulators have the information to make good regulations, or whether effective redistribution must be governmentally driven.

Theme 8, Science, Technology, and Society, ignores that while science and technology may speed interactions and multiply power, they do not change the underlying society itself. The theme juxtaposes process, knowledge, and organization without justification. That science has caused impact over time is obvious and hardly worth a major theme. More significant are recursive feedback loops, relaxation cycles, and awareness that knowledge of Mother Nature’s laws has put such power in the hands of anyone who cares to use it that we are in a race for civilization because isolation is no longer adequate.

Theme 9, Global Connections, suggests such connections are different than those between individuals, groups, cities, states, nations, cultures, and civilizations even though behavior at the edge where any two meet is scalable.

Theme 10, Civic Ideals And Practices, is unsettling. Releasing millions of political change agents unanchored to society by the lessons of history is not in the best interest of all our culture has accomplished in many hundreds of years of development. In the frameworks, one learns about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy but, bizarrely, democracy is an unexamined and assumed given. Authors fail to distinguish between statistical inequality, the opportunity for individuals to achieve greater equality, and the attempts of political elites to play off perceptions of inequality to buy power with Other People’s Money or to stifle upward mobility through middle class entrepreneurship. They unleash change for the sake of change.

[Next article: Social Studies Content specifications direct how vendors are supposed to shape lessons. The Content specifications are the “cut-out” that make it appear local districts are in charge of curricula, except that few practical choices are available.]

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7. Social Studies: Specifications that misdirect

[Article 7 of 10: The previous article exposed that content thematically organized was incidental and not relevant to what should be taught. This article exposes that content, when specified, is not always as it appears.]

Implementation texts for teachers and students are the tip of the educational sword. Mostly created by outside vendors, they arrived pre-designed, with expert representations of advanced behavioral pedagogical techniques. Their complexity creates a barrier to entry to competition.

Authorities dissemble when they posture that content has been left to local authorities. Districts seldom have the time, curricular expertise, or funding to create the classroom material necessary to compete with outside vendors. Requirements are so strict that local districts are left no practical alternative but to accept implementations that express pre-established voice.

The Social Studies Frameworks and outside vendor implementations are like two non-toxic chemicals that, bound together in binary chemical weapons, turn into poison gas. The website posted vendor-provided sample social studies content for Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) grades 2-12 lessons raise the same concerns as the Social Studies Framework.

The Grade 2 ELA text breaks the non-fiction contract with readers. A non-fiction contract requires a narrative arc to convey a full and accurate representation of facts. It’s read-aloud pushes a pasteurized “Democracy Good” Athenian notion that, even simplified for second grade, undermines essential American principles. Half-truths presented as conventional wisdom promote acculturation that trains impressionable students to favor administration prejudices:

The authors weave partial truths into a preferred narrative. Peace becomes the absence of war rather than the absence of the need for war. Athenians become lovers of peace, arts, and learning and while the Spartan approach valued different lessons the authors considered less positive. Athenians invent democracy while Spartans are not praised for their concern about democracy’s potential for overreach. Intentional misrepresentation in business commits fraud; in education it commits social change.

In another sample, ELA reading materials for grades 6-12 purport to teach students about “Evidence-based claims.” The lessons repeatedly drill students to scan readings for “evidence” of claims, even though such claims are taken out of context and impossible to validate. They encourage students to cite things that are not true without any way of knowing it. They prepare young minds to put blind trust in oratory easily hijacked by demagoguery.

One ELA reading has American tennis player Venus Williams plead for equal prize money for women. The lessons imply something is wrong with America by omitting that her criticism was directed at Great Britain and that equal prize money had been awarded 32 years earlier to American women.[14]

A 30-year-old reading from Cesar Chavez from 1984 has lessons that drive readers toward a preferred dramatic narrative. The Grade 7 sample reading offers no alternative evidence to assess the assertions Chavez makes, no defense is offered about his accusations, and nothing suggests the problem is contemporary.

Lessons inform students an evidence-based claim, “States a conclusion you have come to... and that you want others to think about.” Each “evidence-based” claim is out of context and based upon a single tenuous unsubstantiated opinion that, repeated often enough, easily becomes believed.

Bogus assertions are not fact, but content reinforces feelings about the country. One misrepresentation might be happenstance, two a coincidence, but consistent superficiality spread through every year of middle and high school lessons represents either incompetence or a plot.

[Next article: The Social Studies Frameworks push methods as if learning to be an historian is somehow the same as learning history.]

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8. Social Studies: Practices that obscure history

[Article 8 of 10: Previous articles explained shortcomings of many levels of the Social Studies Frameworks. This article gives examples to show that the practices they propose to encourage obscure how to use history.]

Learning how to research is quite different from learning to apply history. The New York State K-12 Social Studies Field Guide proposes half a dozen research practices it encourages with time-consuming pedantry.[15][16]

The first is “Gathering, Interpreting and Using Evidence.” The frameworks prefer students to work with primary sources rather than read authoritative historians who across history have identified potentially useful patterns. In sample lessons, while perhaps authentic, material is often out of context, slippery, and overwhelming.

The frameworks also encourage “Civic participation.”[17]

Participation is inappropriate for a young or immature student easily manipulated. Unarmed with patterns that history can offer, they easily enable misgovernment that shows little, if any, respect for citizens. It is dangerous for the frameworks to promote democracy without promoting caution because of the ease with which democracy can be hijacked.

History requires vigilance. A pound of hamburger can be cut many ways and still be hamburger. History can be cut many ways and still be history. However, students may find slicing history one way not be as useful as slicing it differently. Students deserve a cut useful for them, not for state educators, do-gooders, and villains who are revisionist at heart.

Leftist social theorist Antonio Gramski said that war to remake society takes a long march through cultural institutions like schools that are susceptible to battlefield shaping. For example, the framework considers equality a principle.[18]

The frameworks advocate practices and precepts of questionable value. They suggest one could support equality with a public demonstration, but which equality: equality of opportunity or equality of result? Too often demonstrators want delivered what enforced equality has never delivered—not just ‘a’ thumb on the scale of justice, but their thumb on the scale of justice because their thumb is the only true thumb.

The frameworks invoke history but they don’t respect what it has to offer. For instance, the EngageNY ELA Grade 2 sample by CoreKnowledge dismisses mythology. Youngsters learn names of ancient gods, but not their lessons. Frameworks lessons direct teachers to tell students that “people in ancient times often developed religions as they sought explanations for how things came to be or how things happened in nature . . .” as if gods were fanciful fairy tale creations instead of sturdy beliefs by which ancient youngsters lived and died.[19]

Myths were used to transmit life lessons from one generation to another. Youngsters today form beliefs that are different, but no less sturdy and no less mythic than ancient youngsters.

The life lesson of the killing of Medusa, the Gorgon, is more than a mythical magical tale. Medusa, the gorgon, represents history—an underworld creature, with hair of writhing snakes—amorphous, constantly moving, changing shape, ready to strike at the inattentive, and equally deadly to those who fixed their attention directly at her. History has to be respected, filled as it is with writhing, senseless terror, waiting to be repeated.[20]

Perseus slew Medusa, with gifts from gods Athena and Hermes.

The Frameworks selectively misuse history to further social transformation. “Evidentiary” skills and judgment are exercised to hold the past to present-day standards. History and literature are not simply part of cultural heritage. They are how to plumb the past to discover its weaknesses and marshal its strengths. Medusa teaches us to use history to better one’s own future. History should help one discover patterns of practical use either sharpening thinking or helping label practices tried before and found wanting.

[Next article: The Social Studies Frameworks that claim to teach one thing actually train students to believe something else.]

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9. Social Studies: The battle for individuals in society

[Article 9 of 10: Previous articles teased out the shortcomings of the Social Studies Frameworks. This article examines why.]

If they had tried, creators of the Social Studies Frameworks could not have developed a program less suited to teach students history, economics, and political theory. But, then, their goal appears to replace individuality in culture with a communitarian view. Given a choice between regimentation and initiative they chose uniformity. Uniformity begets conformity. Conformity begets enforced equality of result, never successful over the long term.

The frameworks profess “the importance of educating students who are committed to the ideas and values of democracy”[21] but they never offer a rationale why to commit to democracy. Students are not born committed to democracy and the frameworks do not encourage commitment. The frameworks designers don’t care because, different than most of us, they see democracy as a tool to mold citizens their way. They quote,

“As Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, John Dewey and other great educators understood, public schools do not serve a public so much as create a public. [Cite.] The goal of schooling, therefore, is not merely preparation for citizenship, but citizenship itself; to equip a citizenry with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for active and engaged civic life.”[22]

They did not choose to educate individuals to decide how to act responsibly. They chose to produce “good citizens” according to their definition of good. As a result, they drill in so much that contains so little worth knowing.

The difference passes by most citizens because the authors redefine words for their benefit, not yours. Words, as author William Gass said, are how we bludgeon people into food.[23]

Frameworks designers don’t have to admit their intent. One political theorist called such educationists comprachicos—child-buyers: an allusion to those who, for their own ends, manipulate the minds of children.

Educationists embrace John Dewey’s model of learning, his “learn by doing” approach that promoted real world experiences, not just reading and drill. Their “critical thinking” distills out the process of analytical thinking. Dogmatic lessons encumbered schools with a restrictive set of blinders. Social studies has been an accident in the making since Dewey became infatuated with communal education before it was exposed as a vehicle of the state. Dewey did not coin the title Social Studies, but he certainly believed in social transformation. The frameworks dovetail with international manipulation pursued because principles necessary for society are not as attractive as central control.

What worked in classical education became passé because it was accused of favoring those of higher socioeconomic class. To replace it, designers promote group work and cooperative learning rather than nudge students to think for themselves. They school the clichés of social responsibility and democracy even if strong individual thinking is the more effective way to deduce what society is, what responsibility one has to society, and what validates processes in democracy.

Their oversimplified version of democracy is seeded with an artificial turf of convenient incomplete, politically correct representations. For them, placards speak truth, even when they don’t. For them, some people are more equal than others. For them, ignorance is knowledge. For them, what you know is what you feel and feelings trump good sense. They ply the scientism of select statistics. They invoke the poetry of slogans to feel but not to think. Theirs is the audacity of convictions.

Post-modern and utopian, they gum up minds with viral ideas that know no national borders. They advocate the paternalistic nudge not to understand but to agree. Their hubris is to believe that while people should be free to make their own decisions, “choice architects” like the government can help people make those choices “better.”[24] They presume what they believe is better than history. Their error plays out on a grand scale.

Centralized control is the warning they exceeded their charter. They do not value what they cannot understand. Words are weaponry they use to instill a pernicious misunderstanding of the value of society and negate the individual.

Logic cannot dent their convictions, so it falls to us to laugh at them in public. Once exposed, every individual can judge. Such is real democracy.

[Next article: The next article wraps up that the Social Studies Frameworks were designed to school social transformation rather than educate students.]

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10. Social Studies: Centralized transformation is not education

[Article 10 of 10: The last in a series that examines a ploy to replace social studies with social transformation that serves authorities at the expense of individuals.]

Legitimate questions have been raised about 1) Common Core, 2) the quality of past teaching, and 3) newly approved social studies revisions.

1) Common Core is a side issue. It is a logical fallacy to presume that either a) education has failed and Common Core is the only way to fix it, or b) that Common Core is worse than the problem and schools should continue what they are currently doing.

2) Setting aside Common Core, teachers who do not engage students positively need to be mentored to success or removed from the classroom.

3) While Common Core Literacy Standards help to assure students do not leave the 3rd grade unable to write, read, and inquire, the integration of the guidelines into social studies frameworks obscures social transformation for which no citizen has voted. Pushing transformation, the frameworks fail to teach basic knowledge, skills, and concepts or validate useful understandings that students need to arm themselves to face the world.

Education unequivocally belongs to the individual. The Social Studies frameworks presume education belongs to the state. The task for teachers, school districts, state education authorities, and academia is to recognize the obligation to individual education. It is to recognize the chants for top-down uniform schooling are meant to keep voters from discovering its flaws.

Social studies used to claim to integrate history, economics, politics and culture to show how people have interacted with each other through the years, so the past could be applied to improve current and future interactions. The National Council for the Social Studies dropped that to promote a self-defined version civic competence that parents, if they understood the consequences, would not choose for their children.

Several attempts have been made over the last hundred years to commandeer education along the lines promulgated by national and international organizations with financial and policy interests in removing education from local hands and transforming it to serve their particular interests.[25]

They try to supplant history, economics, political theory, and core lessons about social interaction to promote docility and compliance. What is proposed does not help each student develop knowledge and skills to defend against even the teacher.

Socrates’ Apology juxtaposed order and discipline next to responsibility and free speech. Those afraid of speech don’t trust people. They don’t trust anyone but themselves, giving others no reason to trust them.

Socrates’ question ‘Who has the right to educate students?’ is really the question ‘Who governs?’ Authorities call for order, but order is not judgment so it is about who governs.

Plans to commit mental disarmament have reached the point it would be better to discard the centrally approved Social Studies Frameworks version of civics and return to teach what matters to the children to whom the education belongs.

[Note: The next article will review what has been uncovered about the newly imposed Social Studies frameworks.]

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Social Studies: Reviewing the ploy to transform schooling

[The previous 10 articles describe the ploy to replace social studies with social transformation that serves authorities at the expense of individuals.]

The Social Studies Frameworks being implemented in New York schools have substituted behavioral changes that promote social transformation to replace the knowledge and analytical thinking upon which solid education depends.

When such silliness becomes official, and credentials are brandished to defend it, ordinary people can only resort to laughter.

Bring on Blazing Saddles! Bring on The Producers! Anything but bring on Social Studies. The approved Social Studies Frameworks are so convoluted, obscure, intricate and shallow it is hard to know where first to laugh:

  1. Good citizenship is what authorities say it is.
  2. College and career ready is used as a laudable, magical distraction.
  3. Culture wars pushed into students is so selective students might disown their own grandparents for daring to believe the American dream.
  4. Understandings become key when they reach Billboard’s Top Hits chart.
  5. Authorities get to deem when ideas become principles, and they are to be practiced, not understood.
  6. Unifying themes are those that produce followers authorities can motivate.
  7. Second graders are best fed incomplete feel good concepts while evidence is anything people say.
  8. What happened in history is not worth studying and Economics is what government does.
  9. Centralized control is good for the country even when it isn’t good for citizens.
  10. Schooling that preserves the government is good for the country.

This is an education parents did not long for and one they had no opportunity to reject.

It passed because New York State’s Education Department (NYSED) pushed Regents to approve a modified Social Studies Frameworks even after the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) that pushed the original was told to pack up and go home by the founders of Common Core—the Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

It passed in New York because NYSED created a Content Advisory Panel riddled with special interests and friends of the NCSS. It passed because the letters given to the Regents were equally stacked with shills. It passed because it was “for the children” and made them “college and career ready.”


For ordinary people, an expert is someone who explains things so clearly even we can understand. For an academic, an expert is someone so credentialed that when they are obscure, no one dares challenge their silliness.

For the sake of our children, laughter is welcome at any local Board of Education meeting where you describe what your children are obliged to learn.

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[1] National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) College, Career & Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards (C3 Framework)

[2] The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)

[3] Similar requirements in others states follow the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards guidelines.

[4] For example: “• Students will examine United States and New York State policies toward Native Americans, such as the displacement of Native Americans from traditional lands, creation of reservations, efforts to assimilate Native Americans through the creation of boarding schools, the Dawes Act, and the Indian Reorganization Act and the Native Americans’ various responses to these policies.”

[5] Comparing westward expansion to the present-day influx of other cultures, consequences of overwhelming cultures by sheer numbers is also worthy of discussion.

[6] For example: “• Students will examine Wilson’s Fourteen Points and investigate reasons why the United States Senate refused to support the Treaty of Versailles, focusing on opposition to the League of Nations.”

[7] For example: “• Students will explore the growth and effects of child labor and sweatshops.” And “• Students will examine state and federal government responses to reform efforts, including the passage of the 17th amendment, child labor and minimum wage laws, antitrust legislation, and food and drug regulations.”


[9] The C3 Framework defines culture to be, “a human institution manifested in the learned behavior of people, including their specific belief systems, language(s), social relations, technologies, institutions, organizations, and systems for using and developing resources.” C3-framework-for-social-studies.pdf

[10] National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) College, Career & Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards (C3 Framework). Page 99.





[15] New York State K–12 Social Studies Field Guide.

[16] The frameworks consider Chronological Reasoning and Causation, Comparison and Contextualization, Geographic Reasoning to be social studies practices as well, but examples fail to tease out their variety so they seem used more for show than anything else.

[17] Ibid. NYS Field Guide. Pg 32.

[18] New York State K-8 Framework. Pg. 33. (For PDF download).

[19] Page 16.

[20] The American Civil War, with both sides fighting well-reasoned positions founded in the Bible, the Constitution, and history, systematically killed off 600,000 civilian and military sons and daughters, each side convinced of their moral right.



[23] William Gass. Gertrude Stein and the Geography of the Sentence.

[24] Sunstein, Cass. Former head of Barack Obama’s Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

[25] Eubanks. Robin S. Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became A Weapon. © 2013. Pp. 131-176.