GALLATIN, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that he’s concerned that too much Tennessee history could be stripped from teaching requirements in the state’s public schools under a proposed update to social studies standards.
A draft version would remove several Tennessee events from U.S. history courses, including major milestones in the civil rights movements for minorities and women and Civil War battles fought on state soil.
“As somebody who thinks Tennessee history is important, I want make certain that’s still a part of the curriculum,” Haslam said. “I think that’s critical for the people growing up in our school system.”
The state Board of Education is required under state law to review subject standards every six years. The current draft was assembled with the help of 16,000 comments, submitted mostly by K-12 teachers.
The State Board of Education’s director of policy and research, Laura Encalade, said last week that teachers are struggling to cover the breadth of required topics each school year. This new draft reflects efforts to make the standards “more manageable for teachers and for students as well,” she said.
Events facing deletion from the requirements include:
— The tent city movement that sprang up in in western Tennessee the early 1960s when white property owners evicted hundreds black tenant farms in retaliation for demanding the right to vote.
— The leading role of Nashville suffragette Anne Dudley in getting Tennessee to become the 36th and deciding state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, giving women the right to vote.
— The role in the civil rights movement of the Highlander Folk School in eastern Tennessee that counted Rosa Parks among its alumni.
Haslam said he has heard complaints from several people about the proposed changes but that he hasn’t yet studied them himself.
The governor said he’s confident the professional educators involved will balance the importance of Tennessee history with the need to address pressures teachers face in meeting curriculum requirements.
“At the end of the day I’m certainly hopeful they can leave some time to focus on Tennessee history,” Haslam said. “But we understand the struggle when it comes to curriculum time and what you just physically don’t have time for.”
Tennessee State Historian Carroll Van West complained that the review committee apparently no longer considers Tennessee history to be fundamental.
If the proposed standards are approved, he said, the $160 million Tennessee State Museum being built in Nashville “will explore concepts and chapters in our history that never are covered in Tennessee classrooms.”
The proposed standards are posted on the State Board of Education’s website at https://apps.tn.gov/tcas . They don’t highlight any additions or deletions. Public comments will be accepted until the committee’s next meeting on Oct. 28.