NC State Board of Ed hold on Social Studies changes, will include Social Justice and Racial Issue

At the monthly State Board of Education meeting on July 8, the board postponed a vote on alterations to the state’s social studies standards to add more content on “hard truths” about slavery, racism in addition to current changes which will include “perspectives of racial, ethnic, gender, and identity minority groups.”

The full audio for the July 8 meeting can be accessed on the State Board of Education Youtube channel.

Two related things went on during the July meeting of the board. One was the scheduled adoption of changes to the state’s social studies standards and the other was a presentation by a group of students and a teacher from a Wake County middle school.

The vote has context that goes back to the June 2020 board meeting. The members of the state board meeting wanted to add an “inclusivity statement for all K-12 Social Studies Standards.” This is the proposed statement:

When planning teaching and learning, educators are expected to include diverse histories, experiences, and perspectives of racial, ethnic, gender, and identity minority groups, as well as marginalized, undervalued, and underrepresented groups including, but not limited to: African-Americans; indigenous populations; women; Latinx; Asian-Americans; MENA-Americans; and LGBTQ+ in order to create an inclusive school community where students are respected, valued and welcome participants. Students come from a variety of social, racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds and deserve to learn and be empowered by the historical experiences and contributions of multiple groups.

The question here now becomes, if this is being included, what content is being cut out?

There has been a discussion or two of changes to the social studies curriculum by the board and representatives from the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction (NCDPI). Members from NCDPI have said that they would encourage teachers to use “non-traditional social studies content.” What does that mean?

Apparently, “non-traditional” content includes teaching about Black Wall Street in Durham, redlining, desegregation of schools, but also politically charged issues like the Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter, illegal immigration – specifically the deportation of Mexicans.

The question for this now becomes, where is this “non-traditional” content coming from? Where will materials come from?

One go-to source will likely include the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ultra-biased Teaching Tolerance. UNC-Chapel Hill is another place to start. Some may be surprised to learn that UNC-Chapel Hill supplies a lot of “free” K-12 content for history and social studies.

Some people may also be surprised to see what UNC-Chapel Hill is up to these days in the same vein as what NCDPI and the State Board of Education are doing. An article at the James G. Martin Center lays out the “anti-racism resources”  as posed by the UNC’s office for “diversity and inclusion” on the university’s official website. Here’s the resources list:

The Wake County Public School’s Office of Equity Affairs (OEA) is another likely “non-traditional” source and has recently created a Black Lives Matter themed website to provide “resources” to teachers in order to “teach the movement” in their classrooms. The site glorifies BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, a radical socialist, anti-Israel activist trained by Eric Mann of the domestic terrorist group, Weather Underground.

Leveraging Student Voices

Along the same lines as the Wake County Office of Equity Affairs presentation to the board last year, student voices were ‘leveraged’ at the July 8 meeting. During that meeting, the board heard from four Middle Creek High School students and staff member Matt Scialdone, a Wake County teacher of the year in 2015-16. The students were Yancy Greer, KaLa Keaton, Tashaima Person and Abbey Rogers.

Scialdone’s presentation slides on “Hard history” can be viewed here. The presentation and remarks begin after the 7:26 mark in the live-stream recording.

One can’t tell from the presentation what materials Scialdone used, but there are some good topics in there, but sources matter and it would be wise of the board to make them public if they are going to incorporate the lessons down the road.

Scialdone said his “hard history” sprang from his students not knowing about the Wilmington massacre.  The students, most of them appearing to be 2020 graduates, each talked about why the topics Scialdone mentioned were important to them.

The final student to speak was Abby Rogers, a recent high school graduate headed to UNC-Chapel Hill. Scialdone said in his introduction of Rogers that she is “highly active with national and global activist groups” in the areas of environmentalism and women’s rights.

“Before I talk about the incorporation of more Black history into our curriculum, I want to emphasize just kind of my whiteness,” said Rogers in her opening remarks.  “And that I don’t want to speak on behalf of other students, but really just to share my own experience and how I personally benefited from this type of curriculum.”

Rogers went on to call her time at Middle Creek High “super basic” in terms of her being at a majority White school in the suburbs. She said she was “so oblivious to her own implicit biases” and her own “whiteness” that she didn’t stop to think about “how that impacted other students.”

“Also, the color of my skin was just a privilege in itself,” said Rogers, who went on to say that when you don’t experience racism, you can’t understand how you are “contributing to the problem.”

Rogers said Scialdone’s class made her “better prepared” to be an advocate.

“I think that by taking these classes that really specifically has prepared me to not only be a better advocate on behalf of the Black Community but also as a White person, to kind of learn to take a step back and learn that my privilege is very prevalent,” said Rogers her in closing. “That my privilege makes …comes from a place of basically never being able to understand the Black experience and what it means to be Black in America.”

The presentation was brought to the board by the strategic planning committee, which is chaired by former NC Teacher of the Year, James Ford.  He is also known for being outspoken on social media about racial issues and Black Lives Matter.

The same day as Mr. Ford’s tweet seen above, Mr. Scialdone tweeted about Ford’s organization, The Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED), which this site reported on in 2019. That’s really no coincidence though, as Ford admits on the July 8 call that he and Scialdone are “good friends” and Ford previously spoke with Scialdone’s class about CREED materials.

It is worth noting one of the slides in Scialdone’s presentation is a screenshot of a video that tells students to go to “NAACP.org to get involved.” There’s a video that goes with it, we’ll get to that in a moment.

The NAACP’s “We are done dying” campaign includes a contract for Black Americans that with the following stipulations:

  • Ensure every student of color receives a quality public education that prepares him or her to be a contributing member of a democracy.
  • Create sweeping police reform–federal legislation mandating a zero-tolerance approach in penalizing and/or prosecuting police officers who kill unarmed, non-violent, and non-resisting individuals in an arrest.
  • Ensure quality affordable health care for all people.
  • Address the challenging economic realities facing our communities including poverty, lack of jobs and disproportionate high unemployment, lack of affordable housing, foreclosures, etc.

The NAACP includes “disproportionate high unemployment,” which ignores that minority unemployment before the outbreak of COVID-19 was at record lows. Last year, Latino unemployment dropped to a record low of 4.4 percent and Black unemployment also hit a record low of 5.9 percent.

Now back to that video. According to Spectrum News, Scialdone and the Apex NAACP had some interactions last month to involving students:

Following the death of George Floyd, Gerald Givens, the Raleigh-Apex NAACP President, reached out to Matt Scialdone, an English teacher at Middle Creek High School in Apex, to see how to get students involved. The two decided to let the students have full creative freedom, and the video entitled “#WeAreDoneDying” came to be.

Is this teaching history? Is it activism? Is it both?  Parents can decide after they see the video that was created:

 

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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