The North Carolina State Board of Education has passed a new standard for teaching social studies that will include a more diverse perspective of history.
The board added language for educators to teach about racism, discrimination and the treatment of marginalized groups. But due to pushback from some lawmakers, the new standard does not include the word “systemic” before racism and discrimination or the word “gender” before identity.
The new standards passed in a 7-5 vote on Thursday, but only after State Board Superintendent Catherine Truitt removed the two words.
“For nearly two years, the Department has worked to create consensus among hundreds of educators and stakeholders statewide over the history standards. I’m disappointed there was not a unanimous vote on these standards today because the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education created them to be both inclusive and encompassing,” Truitt said.
Truitt also added a preamble stating, “The North Carolina Board of Education believes that our collective social studies standards must reflect the nation’s diversity and that the successes, contributions, and struggles of multiple groups and individuals should be included.”
According to the preamble, this means teaching the hard truths of Native American oppression, anti-Catholicism, exploitation of child labor and Jim Crow.
“Our human failings have at times taken the form of racism, xenophobia, nativism, extremism, and isolationism. We need to study history in order to understand how these situations developed, the harmful impact they caused, and the forces and actors that sometimes helped us move beyond these outcomes,” the preamble said.
The measure was opposed by several Republican members of the State Board who said the new standards presented an overly negative picture of the nation’s history.
Among those opposed was Mark Robinson, the first Black lieutenant governor of the state.
“I do not believe we live in a systemically racist nation, nor have we ever lived in a systemically racist nation,” Robinson said.
Robinson voted against the standards even after the word “systemic” was removed and said that enough people in the state have questions and concerns about the standards and they needed to go back to the drawing board.
Robinson and others were especially angered by an editorial cartoon from the Capitol Broadcasting Company which depicted Republican school board members as members of the Ku Klux Klan. “That cartoon doesn’t really bother me. What bothers me is the hypocrisy behind it. That you would portray a Black man, just because he’s in the GOP, as a Klansman,” Robinson said.
In a statement provided to CNN, the Capitol Broadcasting Company said that editorial cartoons are meant for hyperbole and satire, and that no one believes that anyone on the State Board of Education is a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is only meant to point out that members of the board are trying to wipe out the racist history of the nation, which includes the Klan.
Equality NC, an organization dedicated to securing rights and protections for the LGBTQ community, voiced opposition to the removal of the word “gender.”
“This version also reduces ‘gender identity’ to simply ‘identity.’ BIPOC and LGBTQ folks experience racism and discrimination through systems and forces that that shape every aspect of our lives, and our education standards should accurately reflect that reality,” they said.
The North Carolina Governor’s press secretary, Dory MacMillan, also released a statement on the new standards.
“The Governor [Roy Cooper] supports the new standards proposed by educators and believes learning our history accurately is an important part of education. It is important to teach students to be critical thinkers, and that includes educating them honestly about our great country’s history that includes injustices that linger still today,” the statement said.
The State Department of Public Instruction is expected to work with the board on how the new standards will be implemented into the curriculum.