Our nation pauses on Memorial Day to remember the more than 1.3 million Americans who paid the ultimate price to protect our freedom and preserve our liberties.
Since, like Ronald Reagan stated in his “A Time for Choosing” speech, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction” and it doesn’t get passed on “to our children in the bloodstream,” it’s critical that we ensure liberty’s torch gets “handed on for them to do the same.”
This begins with making certain students learn about those significant events and contributions of key historical individuals to America’s development and greatness.
Legislators made commendable progress during this year’s General Assembly to ensure Kentucky students are exposed to key historical documents, including Reagan’s famous speech.
However, Kentucky’s public education community remains mulish toward the need to shore up social studies standards to ensure important history isn’t lost in ideological clouds of critical race theory and social-justice psychobabble.
Yes, our children need to be taught the good, bad and ugly about America’s history.
Taught, not indoctrinated.
Woke educrats have a great aversion to specific facts, important events and individuals’ accomplishments, preferring instead to push racial identity and collectivist ideology.
It’s at least bad optics – downright embarrassing, actually – that Abraham Lincoln doesn’t even get a mention in his native state’s ambiguous standards while other states include his full contribution to America’s story.
Other individuals missing from Kentucky’s standards: Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, James Madison, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Betsy Ross, Harriet Tubman, Sitting Bull, George Washington Carver, Susan B. Anthony, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Wright Brothers and Lewis and Clark.
Kentucky’s education establishment pushes back: “You can’t expect these standards to cover every detail of American history. Doing so would make them unreasonably long. Just generally mention the big historical events; our teachers will do a great job of filling the gaps with the particulars.”
So, does just mentioning the “Civil War” ensure Lincoln’s full story gets covered?
Besides, how does this work in evaluating what students have actually learned, considering current Kentucky law prohibits testing on any material not included in the standards?
Such undefined standards create troublesome uncertainty about whether Kentucky students will learn about these individuals and how they fit into America’s unique history.
Arguing that doing standards right makes them too lengthy lacks all credibility considering other states have packaged far-better criteria in far-fewer pages.
All the above-mentioned individuals, for example, are listed in Louisiana’s just-updated standards.
Louisiana’s schools will also cover the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars, among others, meaning their kids will understand Memorial Day in modern context.
In sharp contrast, Kentucky’s standards mention no specific conflict after World War Two, showing a distressing lack of respect for more than 103,000 Americans who paid the ultimate price in those wars.
While Louisiana includes a notable number of key individuals and events in just 58 pages, Kentucky lists far fewer in its verbose, vague and vacuous 229-page bundle of ambiguity.
For instance, Louisiana’s standards clearly require students to “Identify symbols, customs, famous individuals, and celebrations representative of our state and nation, including: ... State and nationally designated holidays: New Year’s Day, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inauguration Day, Washington’s Birthday, Mardi Gras, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.”
Kentucky’s standards, on the other hand, put it this way: “The symbols and events that represent American patriotism may include, but are not limited to, the National Flag, National Holidays, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and any history or stories surrounding significant monuments found in a child’s local community.”
Passing freedom on to future generations requires patriotic certainty – not ambiguity.
If classroom studies only “may” include Memorial Day, they also “may not,” which most reasonable Kentuckians should find unacceptable.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank.