The Minnesota Department of Education released a draft of its new social studies curriculum standards, which place a new emphasis on diversity, equity, and gender.
The social studies curriculum is up for state-wide review during the 2020-21 school year as part of Minnesota’s 10-year cyclical curriculum review. The Department of Education’s standards committee has dubbed the new framework a “more inclusive approach to social studies education.”
According to a copy of the standards, the committee wants to begin social studies classes with a land acknowledgment. Land acknowledgments tell students that they are learning on land that was conquered by Americans, though once belonged to Native Americans.
“Minnesota is the contemporary and ancestral home of the Anishinaabe and Dakota peoples, and social studies education on this land will acknowledge and honor their contemporary and historical voices,” the draft reads.
Under the new standards, learning about social justice curriculum begins in the first grade. Six and seven-year-olds may be taught about systemic discrimination and how groups have fought against such discrimination.
“[Students will] learn to recognize unfairness, stereotypes, and bias on the individual level (e.g., biased speech) and injustice at the institutional or systemic level (e.g. discrimination),” the curriculum reads. “[Student will] explore how individuals and groups in the past have fought against bias and discrimination through social justice movements.”
The standards insist that fourth-graders investigate how race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, and geographic location shape the opinions of people.
In fifth grade, students are asked to “investigate how groups (example: women, religious groups, civil rights groups, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ) have advocated for access to greater rights.” Fifth-graders must also learn about the ongoing debate about renaming buildings following the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Elementary students are asked to “analyze how different perspectives influenced past decisions to name places and impact changing place names today.”
Middle schoolers may soon be exposed to learning about racism in relation to the criminal justice system in Minnesota, the evils of capitalism, and social justice activism.
The standards ask sixth-graders to “describe the goals, offenses, penalties, long-term consequences, privacy concerns of Minnesota’s juvenile justice system and evaluate the impact on Black, Indigenous, Person of Color (BIPOC) communities.”
Sixth-graders are also asked to assess the goals of activists in their “quest for their voice to be heard.” The standards specifically address the activism of anti-war, racial minorities, immigrants and refugees, women, LGBTQ, and indigenous people.
In seventh grade, students may be asked to describe how profit can be used as “an incentive for people to exploit others or the environment.”
High school students undergo the most intense social justice indoctrination. At one point in the curriculum, freshmen are taught about the evils of “whiteness, Christianity, and capitalism,” and asked to question the country’s founding documents.
According to the standards, ninth-graders must “describe the tactics used by the United States government to claim indigenous and Mexican land, including but not limited to an analysis of the ideology of Manifest Destiny and its relationship to whiteness, Christianity, and capitalism.”
The same students learn about how Euro-Americans allegedly used “whiteness” and traditional gender norms to keep people enslaved.
“Identify how Europeans and Euro-Americans developed new legal justifications for slavery and settler colonialism in the Americas by creating new racial categories (i.e. Whiteness), and new ideas about gender,” the curriculum reads.
Other lessons include an explanation of how “systemic inequity” created barriers to accessing credit, explain how race is a “social construction” used to “oppress people of color,” and learn to embrace gender ideology.
“[Students will] explain the social construction of race and how it was used to oppress people of color and assess how social policies and economic forces offer privilege or systematic oppressions for racial/ethnic groups related to accessing social, political, economic, and spatial opportunities,” the curriculum reads. “[Students will] develop a respectful awareness about how ideas and norms about gender have changed over time, and how members of the LGBTQ+ community have responded to persecution or marginalization by building coalitions in order to promote gender equality/equity.”
Instructors are told to teach about the failure and successes of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments during the Reconstruction era. The curriculum asks teachers to “connect this history to persistent discrimination and inequity in the present.”
Ninth-graders must also question why the United States’ founding documents included only the voices of white people.
“[Students will] analyze the founding documents of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as historical sources, asking who created them, whose voices were absent, and whose interests were articulated,” the standards read.
According to the Department of Education’s webpage, the committee will delay making a second draft until it has paid “full attention to issues of diversity and equity.”
During a virtual committee meeting, the department’s Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Teaching and Learning Bobbie Burnham said that the standards will be developed with an emphasis on the “lived experiences” of young, marginalized students.
“The committee has articulated the need to make standards and supporting benchmarks more meaningful by attending to the race, ethnicity, identity, and lived experiences of young people in relation to civic life and acknowledging voices and experiences of marginalized youth,” Burnham said.
A second draft is slated to be released in early June.