The Nebraska Board of Education is taking the advice of a historian who considers “American Exceptionalism” too political of a term to include in Nebraska social studies. Removing this concept from the curriculum, educators have instead added climate change to the list of geography topics.
“I personally would be wary of the term ‘American Exceptionalism.’… It has become extremely politically charged in recent years, and could convey unintended baggage,” Jeremy Stern wrote in an email to the staff at the Nebraska Department of Education, according to World-Herald staff writer Joe Dejka.
Dejka reports that “[Stern] suggested something more neutral, such as ‘the American journey.’”
Stern also suggested that climate change be taught at earlier ages. “Though I recognize that there may be political pressures not to do so, these are questions today’s children will regularly encounter from an early age,” wrote Stern.
“Jeremy Stern, a history consultant who had reviewed Nebraska’s current standards as part of an earlier report for the Fordham Institute on all states’ standards, recommended the revised standards pay more attention to chronological sequence and addressing various issues equally,” reports Margaret Reist for the Lincoln Journal Star.
According to Dejka, climate change was not previously included in state standards, but a new draft lists climate change under the heading of geography. “The topic heading calls for students to develop and apply spacial perspectives, geographic knowledge and geographic skills ‘to make informed decisions regarding issues and current events at the local, state, national and international levels,’” writes Dejka. “Climate change, which is not mentioned in existing Nebraska standards, is in the draft as a concept that students would evaluate along with loss of biodiversity, deforestation, ozone layer, air pollution and other ‘environmental geographic issues,’” he reports.
Nebraska is not alone in its debate about whether to include climate change in new school standards. As the Associated Press recently reported, “Kansas State Board of Education races this year are shadowed by an emerging conflict over science standards for public schools — and it’s not all about evolution.” Rather, it’s about climate change.
“Climate change is emerging as a potential political flashpoint in Kansas and possibly 25 other states working with the National Research Council on common standards,” reports the AP. “If adopted, the guidelines could encourage public schools to spend far more time teaching students about the Earth’s climate and how human activity affects it.”
The AP reports that “Kansas’ current science standards touch on climate change with a statement in guidelines for grades 8-12 that says only, ‘Human activity impacts global climate.’”
“In contrast, the multi-state standards under development are likely to contain more detail and make the effects of human activity on climate a core concept starting in elementary school.” After all, the lessons learned earliest provide the foundation for our children’s perspectives going forward. Is this really what we want their geography and science classes to discuss?
You can read a few of my climate change articles here: