Multiculturalism! Bipartisanship! What are they doing to our SOL tests? 

Past and Prologue

It's a kinder, more inclusive SOL. The Virginia Board of Education, which governs what goes on in Virginia's 1,800 public schools, is considering changes to the Standards of Learning for social studies, the minimum that children should learn in the subject from kindergarten through high school. Uniformly lousy SOL test scores across Virginia cried out that something is amiss. The proposed revisions simplify and make more specific what students are expected to know. They ease the crush on younger students. After grade three, they give school divisions more flexibility to teach what they want, when they want. There are fewer topics, but more diversity in subjects and viewpoints. A quick comparison of old and new: OUT: For kindergartners — north, south, east and west; the Virginia flag and state bird, "The Star-Spangled Banner." IN: For kindergartners — Martin Luther King Jr. Day. OUT: For first-graders — picking out the seven continents and four oceans on a globe, moved to second grade; describing democracy; naming the president. IN: For first-graders — Washington Monument, Statue of Liberty, playing fair, following rules, working hard. OUT: For second-graders — Pyramids, Great Wall of China, making and enforcing laws. IN: For second-graders — "First Americans" and Powhatans; United States as a land of different peoples that honors many customs; finding specific U.S. rivers, mountains and lakes, and China and Egypt on maps. OUT: For third-graders — detailed study of Jamestown, moved to later years; taxation and government services. IN: For third-graders — ancient Mali. OUT: "Give me liberty or give me death," "Remember the Alamo," "E Pluribus Unum," "Ask not what your country can do for you ... ," "I have a dream ... ." IN: Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address. OUT: Conflict and differences between Islam and Christianity, comparisons of major religions. Panama Canal, Theodore Roosevelt's "Big Stick Diplomacy," Comparisons with Far Eastern and Western European countries. IN: Early African civilizations of Axum and Zimbabwe, Ghana and Songhai; the role of the printing press; the Magna Carta. OUT: Early slavery. IN: How slavery reshaped life in Americas, impact of expansion on "First Americans;" slave revolts, abolitionist and suffrage movements, Civil War perspectives from black soldiers, women and slaves, discrimination and "Jim Crow" after the Civil War. OUT: Columbus Day, Lee/Jackson/King Day. IN: U.S. policies toward Latin America and Asia, Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points, Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations, Pearl Harbor. Japanese-American internment, all-minority World War II units, Geneva Convention and treatment of war prisoners. 1963 March on Washington, Civil Rights Act of 1964. Impact of space exploration and new technologies on American life. OUT: A bunch of names, including George Wythe, Paul Revere, James Monroe, John Paul Jones, Johnny Appleseed, Davy Crockett, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Louis XIV, Peter the Great, Copernicus, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Voltaire, Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, James Watt, Eli Whitney, Booker T. Washington, Will Rogers, Charles Lindbergh, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry F. Byrd Sr., Arthur Ashe. IN: Pocahontas, Christopher Newport, Juan Ponce de Leon, George Mason, Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks. OUT: Political labels "conservative" and "liberal," the Electoral College. IN: The "necessity of compromise," personal character traits "that facilitate thoughtful and effective participation in civic life." Speaking of participation: The Virginia Board of Education will hold four public hearings on the proposed social studies standards at locations throughout the state Jan. 8. The Richmond-area hearing will be at Petersburg High School, 3101 Johnson Road, at 7 p.m. Speakers can register beginning at 6:30 p.m. Speakers will have three minutes and should bring written copies of their comments. Questions? Call 786-7076 or 225-2893. The proposed standards can be seen on the Internet at www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Instruction/historysolrevise.pdf

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