As students and teachers in the state’s public school system close out the year and prepare to take a much needed break from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s Board of Education is embroiled in disarray and confusion over preparations for new social studies standards and curriculum changes for the coming school year. These changes, now in their final stages of approval, have the potential of creating additional problems for students, teachers and administrators in the year ahead and an embarrassment for the N.C. Board of Education.
Earlier this week the education board began the process of reviewing documents to guide teachers with new and controversial social studies standards. These standards which incorporate Critical Race Theory (CRT) have been criticized by education professionals, parents and politicians as anti-American and highly divisive to the nation’s political and social structure. The N.C. House of Representative passed a bill last month, H.B. 324, which prohibits teaching concepts that the USA is a racist and sexist nation. That bill is now going to the state senate for consideration and if passed will be sent to Governor Cooper for his signature.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, responding to these concerns, established the Facts and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students (FACTS) task force to review the impacts of the new standards once they are introduced in the state’s curriculum planned for this September. That task force will conduct its first meeting this week in Raleigh.
Thursday the education board was scheduled to approve a draft of supporting documents including a glossary of social studies terms to guide K-5 teachers in discussions about racism and discrimination as part of the new standards and social studies curriculum. But that action was abruptly withdrawn by the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Superintendent Cathy Truitt without any explanation.
At the same time the 12 members of the State Board of Education were considering the glossary and “unpacking documents” to be used by elementary school teachers a web blog post was circulating that brought into question the lack of sourcing for information included in the documents.
Dr. Terry Stoops, Director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, posted a blog noting that many of the paragraphs appearing in the glossary had distinct similarity with paragraphs appearing in Wikipedia. His blog clearly shows how terms used in the glossary and “unpacking documents” are exact replicas of terms such as “American Exceptionalism,” “Ethnocentrism,” “Racism” and more, which he found on the web.
Dr. Stoops gently noted in his blog that, “Unfortunately, North Carolina DPI did not provide a bibliography page of works cited in the final document.” He initiated a search and discovered that many of the paragraphs appearing in the draft document to be approved in Thursday’s meeting were lifted completely from documents that are easily obtained on Wikipedia and were done so without any attribution. In the education and publishing field this is better known as plagiarism.
For those not familiar with Wikipedia it is described by its founders as “a free, multilingual online encyclopedia written and maintained by a community of volunteer contributors through a model of open collaboration, using a wiki-based editing system.”
What is astounding and disturbing is that this draft document was presented on behalf of education professionals in the state’s education department. It is assumed that those creating these documents for teachers would have better professional judgement about attributing the source of descriptions and definitions to be used in official state documents. There is nothing wrong with using the terms, but it is wrong and very unprofessional to do so without acknowledging the original source.
While there is no proof that this revelation resulted in the glossary and “unpacking documents” being pulled from consideration by the board of education, it is a good justification for that action.
The seeming confusion and legitimacy of this first effort of creating a glossary of terms and supporting documents is indicative of a lack of serious consideration of what is being proposed for teachers and students in the coming school year. This lack of intentional consideration is further justification that these standards should likewise be pulled from implementation until further research is concluded.
North Carolina teachers, students and the public have had enough conflict, disruption and confusion over the past two years. The time to push the pause button on these new social studies standards is now, before the beginning of a new school year.