Teaching of TN history faces change — for better or worse?

In an op-ed piece appearing in the News-Sentinel, Bill Carey writes that a lot of Tennessee history being taught in the state’s schools will be ignored under new social studies standards recommended by a study committee advising the State Board of Education. Cary was a member of the committee who dissented from the majority report and is the founder of Tennessee History for Kids.

Jason Roach, a Hawkins County school principal who chaired the committee, has an op-ed piece in the Commercial Appeal voicing support for the majority recommendations.

Excerpt from Cary’s article:

In these proposed standards— the required courses— William Blount and Rocky Mount are no longer mentioned. Nor is Little Carpenter; the Chickamaugan Indians; the Natchez Trace; the New Madrid Earthquakes; the Civil War Battles of Chattanooga, Franklin or Nashville; Confederate hero Sam Davis; World War II hero Cornelia Fort; the Cumberland Homesteads; Alex Haley and the list goes on.

In these standards, the Plateau of Tibet is mentioned twice, but the Cumberland Plateau is not mentioned once. The Great Lakes are in the standards, but not Reelfoot Lake.

Perhaps this list of deleted Tennessee items makes you appreciate how hard it is for 4th and 5th grade teachers to embed state history into U.S. history. But the fact of the matter is that if these standards are adopted, a lot of Tennessee history will be removed. That’s why state historian Dr. Carroll Van West has spoken out against them. That’s why the Tennessee Historical Commission passed a resolution against them.

For Tennessee to adopt these standards at a time when we are building a new state museum makes little sense.

An excerpt from Roach’s article:

As we have neared the end of this review process, let me say with confidence that Tennessee history is safe. The standards that we are recommending will empower local education agencies to prioritize the teaching of Tennessee history, as well as historical events that have happened in our local communities.

I love being a citizen of Hawkins County almost as much as being a Tennessean. Under the proposed standards, I would be able to teach my students about the Amis Mill, Swift Memorial College, and Pressmens’ Home, which are all located in, or near, Rogersville, Tennessee.

Students in Nashville may study Fort Nashborough. Memphis students may learn about Robert Church Jr., the founder of the NAACP in Memphis. Because local education agencies will continue to design curriculum, your children will learn much more about your immediate community, as well as Tennessee history.

Note: The Kingsport Times-News has an news article quoting Roach HERE and a followup article quoting Cary, HERE.

A bill pending in the Legislature (HB727 by Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville, and Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin) would, as amended, would restore a requirement into state law (deleted years ago) that there be a specific unit of study of Tennessee history and geography, rather than having the subject  — as listed in the standards adopted by the Board of Education — “embedded” in teaching of other courses, such as world history.

One Response to Teaching of TN history faces change — for better or worse?

  • Rick Williams says:

    This just chaps my ass. I am a native of Tennessee and I want things taught in our schools that gives factual history of our state. Too many newer teachers want to rewrite our history books.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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