Sen. Marc Basnight’s letter on history instruction

By on January 15, 2010

The Honorable June St. Clair Atkinson,
Superintendent of Public Instruction
The Honorable Bill Harrison, Chair
State Board of Education
6301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-6301

Dear Superintendent Atkinson and Chairman Harrison:

It has come to my attention that the Department of Public Instruction is in the process of proposing changes to the Essential Standards for the United States History curriculum in our state’s public schools. I understand that the Department is presently seeking feedback on a draft plan that would expand U.S. History education in elementary and middle school grades, but would limit the coursework to 1877-present in the 11th grade. I am absolutely opposed to any change that would limit the study to the years proposed.

Any changes the state makes to teaching U.S. History must be an enhancement to what students learn in high school and not downshifting in any way. As a reader of history myself, I think that no one should graduate from high school without a thorough understanding of the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, the writing of the Constitution, and the personalities involved. Furthermore, it is my belief that only high school students have the capacity to understand complex and awful parts of our nation’s history such as slavery and the Civil War. To exclude the founding of our nation and its early struggles from our high school curriculum would be doing a disservice to our students and teachers alike.

Sadly, students know very little about history as it is. We should be doubling, maybe even tripling, our efforts and enhancing the coursework that is now taught in high school–that is the direction the Essential Standards changes should be headed.

In fact, I would like to see history taught in expanded and unique ways, perhaps as an extracurricular activity outside of the school day if time cannot be found during the regular school hours, even as a means of extra credit. However, do not carry on with the thoughts of the changes as presented. U.S. History is too precious and important and must be taught in its entirety during the high school years. We all want North Carolina’s public school students to receive the very best education. I look forward to working with you as we continue improving education in our state.

Sincerely yours,
Marc Basnight
CC: Governor Beverly Perdue
State Board of Education
Members of the North Carolina Senate




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