LETTER: Curriculum review should be open to diversity
The following is a letter to the editor submitted to the Park Rapids Enterprise by a reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Park Rapids Enterprise. To submit a letter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to Park Rapids Enterprise, 203 Henrietta Ave. N., Park Rapids, MN 56470.
Responding to the Feb. 6 article in the Park Rapids Enterprise where Char Christenson asks the Park Rapids School Board to ‘take a stand’ on history standards, we ask you to consider another perspective on the subject of the revision of Minnesota’s social studies standards. We believe that students need to be able to do critical thinking about current issues based on factual information about past events.
The standards are reviewed every 10 years. Chosen from over 200 applicants, the diverse group of 41 people working on the standards revision are 56% Caucasian, 24% Black or African American, 15% American Indian/Alaska Native, 10% Hispanic/Latino, 7% Asian and 5% claiming identity in more than one group. The committee membership reflects both rural (30%) and urban (70%) areas of Minnesota. The diversity is reflected in their areas of expertise in the social studies disciplines as well as grade level teaching experience. Differences of opinion about historical trauma are addressed by developing consensus around the issues.
Revision of standards is a process with many checks and balances. The full committee began meeting in September. In November, the first draft of revisions was made available for public review and comment. The second draft was completed in February and is followed by another round inviting public scrutiny and comment. In May, the committee will be required to send a final draft to the state commissioner of education for approval. An administrative law judge will finalize the rulemaking process. The department must respond to all comments received during the comment periods. Implementation of standards will not happen until 2024 or 2025.
The standards review team has the challenge of keeping the curriculum reflective of America without sacrificing substance. This requires that the standards be more inclusive of the experiences of Anishinaabe and Dakota tribes, the struggles of African Americans, Asian Americans, new immigrants as well as the LGBTQ community. We applaud these efforts to have students study the many points of view within our diverse communities.
In Minnesota, the high school graduation rate is 88% for white versus 67% for black student graduates and 51% for Native Americans. While there are multiple causes for the education gap, it is important that diverse viewpoints are discussed.
As volunteers, people who have given their time and expertise in this effort for the betterment of our students' educational experiences should be commended. All of us need to be open to the diversity that is part of our communities. We must trust that our teachers will be working to develop critical thinking skills, research skills, how to access information and understanding the resources needed. Realistically, the volume of material to be taught is more than time available.