Students and staff in Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska recently participated in the district's quarterly "Make a Difference Challenge" and tracked their acts of kindness. For a week, students made differences in the lives of others, such as the social studies students at Lefler Middle School who made holiday cards for 3,500 veterans. Fourth-graders supported a classmate whose father has leukemia, and a high-school theater group created a series that encourages kindness among younger students.
The Nebraska Board of Education unanimously adopted new standards for social studies that include global warming as a theory and the uniqueness of the structure of the U.S. government, known as American exceptionalism. The state does not test students on social studies, and local school districts have a year to adopt and implement the new standards or develop more stringent ones.
After a sometimes contentious debate in Nebraska about updates to its social studies standards, one of the more talked-about subjects -- "American exceptionalism" -- was retained in the final draft proposal. The concept was kept as was another hotly debated topic: climate change. If approved today in a vote by the state board of education, the standards can be adopted by districts within a year, or districts can opt for more rigorous standards.
Parents and activists were among the Nebraska citizens appealing to state education leaders to preserve elements of the state's proposed social studies standards during a statewide public hearing recently. Among the two most talked-about subjects were "American exceptionalism" and aspects of geography that relate to human impact on the natural world, such as deforestation and climate change. The state Education Department will take public comments until Nov. 28, and the state Board of Education plans to review a final draft of the standards at a Dec. 7 meeting.
A new social studies curriculum being proposed in Nebraska does not include enough facts and figures, according to some people who have questioned the revisions. In one report, the draft standards were given a "C," in part because of its lack of focus on specific people and events. The public now will have a chance to review and comment on the standards before they are considered by school board officials in December.