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The Return of Historical Significance

created May 20, 2016 10:31 AM

New Framework Marks the Beginning of the End of Marginalization

by Nancy McTygue

On Thursday, May 19, the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) voted to send the latest draft of California’s new History-Social Science Framework onto the State Board of Education (SBE).  Should the SBE approve the draft when they meet in July, California will have its first major update of the document that provides guidance on what and how to teach history and the related social sciences for grades K – 12.  After three hours of public testimony from close to 200 individuals representing a variety of interests, the Commission voted to send the draft along for final adoption, with a series of final edits.  And while not every person who spoke may feel this way, I believe that May 19 will be remembered as the beginning of the end of the marginalization of history-social science in California.

May 19 was the day that hundreds of citizens made their way to Sacramento to advocate for their communities, for historical accuracy, and for the importance of quality instruction.

May 19 was the day that all members of the Instructional Quality Commission, not just those who teach history, but math teachers, science teachers, English / Language Arts teachers, and world language teachers, engaged in substantive and sincere discussions about what we teach about our past. 

May 19 was the day that Deputy Superintendent Tom Adams publicly linked the diversity of our state, our collective histories, and every parent’s hope for their children to learn about the past to be successful in the future.

May 19 was the day that IQC Chair Lauryn Wild and HSS Chair Bill Honig demonstrated again and again what civil discourse looks like, requiring mutual respect of both commissioners and members of the public, ensuring equality of access, and demanding substantive consideration before voting took place.

May 19 was the day that representatives from the LGBT community, the ACLU, the Environmental Literacy Taskforce, and the Filipino American community all voiced their support for the draft, noting its inclusivity, accuracy, and importance, not only to their communities, but to the state.

May 19 was the day that Associate Justice William J. Murray (3rd District Court of Appeal) spoke of the importance of the new framework as a tool to improve civic engagement for the benefit of the judiciary and our society at large.

May 19 was the day that individual citizens spent hours in uncomfortable chairs, some with children in tow, waiting patiently for their one-minute opportunity to speak – to share their truth, to stand with their brothers and sisters, and to remind us all that history is important, to our children, our community, and our state.

In short, May 19 was the day that individual citizens, educators, community groups, representatives of the government, all stood up and said history-social science is important to them, their children, and the state.  Their messages about identity, heritage, inclusivity and tolerance, accuracy, civic responsibility, and a vision for their children’s future must not be forgotten as we strive to improve student learning, literacy, and engagement.

This has been a very long and at times, difficult journey for us, but on May 19, I was proud to stand witness to a conversation long overdue. We’re not done yet – the State Board still has to approve the final draft this summer – but based on what I saw yesterday in Sacramento, I can’t help but be optimistic about our chances.

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