Leaders of several conservative groups are criticizing Nebraska's proposed social studies standards, saying teachers could easily manipulate them to advance a political agenda.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Leaders of several conservative groups are criticizing Nebraska's proposed social studies standards, saying teachers could easily manipulate them to advance a political agenda.
The coalition has offered a more detailed, conservative-leaning set of standards as a replacement for one submitted by Nebraska educators, according to the Omaha World Herald (http://bit.ly/TlJ0Ce ).
The Rev. Val Peter, former executive director of Boys Town, and leaders of four conservative groups made the request this week in a letter to the Nebraska Board of Education, which is slated to adopt new standards on Dec. 7.
Nebraska Department of Education officials have emphasized that the proposed standards are intentionally broad out of respect for the state's tradition of locally controlled schools.
Peggy Sigler, a spokeswoman for the Liberty Education Advocacy Coalition, called the state's draft standards for public schools "mushy."
"They are not measurable, and it leaves it wide open for whatever teacher is in the classroom, with whatever ideology, to, frankly, push it on the kids," said Sigler, a Catholic Republican from Omaha.
Molly O'Holleran, state board member from North Platte, said she wants to study the proposal. O'Holleran said public input has already improved the draft standards, but the decision on what to include ultimately rests with the board.
The changes are part of a broader overhaul of state education standards. Board members have already updated standards in language arts, math and science.
For the social studies standards, the department sought input from about 50 educators who teach at elementary, secondary and collegiate levels.
Peter, who spent 20 years as Boys Town's executive director, criticized the state's draft standards in a Nov. 12 letter to the drafting committee. He described them as "a trendy, upper/middle class version of a political progressive view shared by few Nebraskans."
The coalition's proposed standards are far more detailed than the state's proposal, mandating that kids learn important dates and figures. They would require fifth-graders to identify the Founding Fathers and "patriot heroes," including John Adams, Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
They also would eliminate a reference to climate change in the state's draft, as well as other elements of human geography.
Students would be taught to "understand the concept of American exceptionalism" and the values that French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville identified as underlying America's success: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire.
The cover letter was signed by Peter and the leaders of four other groups: Conservative 912 Group of Sarpy County, America on My Mind, Taxpayers for Freedom, and the Liberty Education Advocacy Project.
Sigler said coalition members are not out to brainwash kids into blind patriotism.
Under the substitute standards, she said, children will get "a factual, accurate understanding of our history, what our government system is all about constitutionally."
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com