In Teachers We Trust: Why We Oppose OH H.B. Nos. 322 and 327

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October 26, 2021

In Teachers We Trust: Why We Oppose OH H.B. Nos. 322 and 327

I am a trained, professional educator. This isn’t an opinion – it’s a documented fact. I have earned degrees and a certification from accredited teacher education programs, was awarded teaching licenses in two states, and have on-the-job experience. This provides me with deep understandings of how people learn and how to teach; understandings that someone who is not a trained educator does not possess. Hence, it really bothers me when people, such as politicians, who are not trained educators tell me and my colleagues how to our jobs. Would they interfere with the work of their dentist, mechanic, or IT technician? Yet, politicians consistently interfere with the work of educators.

The vast majority of public-school teachers in the United States are trained, professional educators. To become a social studies teacher, one must take content classes in history, civics, geography, and economics. Additionally, they learn about the academic and social-emotional needs of students, and the methodology of effective instruction. Throughout their careers, they hone the skills and expertise necessary to provide meaningful instruction to a specific age level about specific topics. Teachers become specialists in their field. So why is a contingency of Ohio legislators trying to tell teachers, specifically social studies teachers, what and how to teach?

Ohio House Bills 322 and 327 are the latest attempt by some Ohio politicians to infringe upon the expertise of educators. The bills imply that teachers, particularly social studies teachers, are promoting racism and sexism. In reality the opposite is true: social studies teachers utilize their content and pedagogical knowledge to promote the dismantling of racism and sexism. They are expertly prepared to engage students in discussions about such injustices through the exploration of historical and contemporary events. Social studies teachers prepare students to become active and engaged participants in public life: citizens who recognize injustices and advocate against them for the greater good of our society.  If legislators want to combat racism and sexism, they should let the experts do their jobs.

Teachers know what they’re doing. They’ve trained for this. And if that isn’t enough, their performance is routinely evaluated by school administrations and the state. We want the best for our children. We trust the pediatrician because of their expertise garnered from education and experience. So, trust our teachers. They too have the expertise required to provide professional care for our children.


Ohio Legislative Service Commission. (2021, June 14). H.B. 322 Bill Analysis. https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/download?key=17005&format=pdf

Ohio Legislative Service Commission. (2021, June 14). H.B. 327 Bill Analysis. https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/download?key=16997&format=pdf

Dr. Amy Bottomley, Director of Education Initiatives 

Dr. Amy Bottomley is the Director of Educational Initiatives at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She has earned a B.S. in Secondary Education: Social Studies, a M.Ed. in Reading Education, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Amy has taught high school social studies and reading courses in Ohio and Maryland, as well as teacher education courses at the University of Cincinnati. She is dedicated to teaching for social justice and supporting teachers in their pursuit of inclusive classroom practices. Amy can be contacted at (513) 333-7586 or at abottomley@nurfc.org.

Social Studies for the 21st Century: Why We Oppose OH H.B. No. 322

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October 26, 2021

Social Studies for the 21st Century: Why We Oppose OH H.B. No. 322

What do you remember about social studies class? For some of us, we recall a teacher lecturing while we copy a plethora of dates, names, and explanations into notebooks. We were told what happened and why it happened and then took a multiple-choice test. Chances are you found it boring. Ferris Buhler could relate.

Current educators know that this is not how we should teach. Research has shown that students need to be actively engaged: asking questions and making connections to their lives. The goal should not be regurgitation of facts, but meaningful understanding of concepts and the application of discipline specific skills. So why would legislators in Ohio support a bill prohibiting public schools from “requiring the discussion of current events,” and “requiring or awarding course credit for lobbying or other work surrounding social or public policy advocacy?”

Democracy requires the discussion of current events. Citizens need to engage with one another, ask questions, and learn about the world around them to advocate for the issues they deem important. Social studies teachers prepare students for this. They teach how to critically examine a topic by asking questions, seeking multiple perspectives, and examining the credibility of sources. They teach how to generate evidence-based arguments and engage in discussions and debate; civil discourse required in a democracy. Additionally, social studies teachers understand that we study the past to prepare for the future, and effective instruction requires students to make connections between the past and current events.

Democracy also requires citizens to advocate for their wants and needs. A government rooted in the desires of We the people only works if the people make their desires known. Social studies teachers educate students about advocacy to prepare them for civic participation. They encourage student advocacy to foster skills development through hands-on experience; all the while facilitating the application of social studies concepts. Don’t we want students to have real world experiences? Don’t we want a citizenry prepared for civic participation?

The Ohio Department of Education understands this. In fact, educators are required to teach “Historical Thinking and Skills” and “Civic Participation and Skills” at every grade level, K-12, in accordance with Ohio’s Learning Standards: Social Studies. In terms of current events, modern day events and concepts are included in all high school courses including a course dedicated to “Contemporary World Issues.”

Ohio House Bill No. 322 is counterintuitive to social studies instruction for the 21st century. A successful democracy is dependent upon citizens educated for civic participation. Why would you stand in the way of this education? Anyone? Anyone?


Ohio Legislative Service Commission. (2021, June 14). H.B. 322 bill analysis. https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/download?key=17005&format=pdf

Ohio Department of Education. (2018, Feb.) Ohio’s learning standards: Social studies. http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Learning-in-Ohio/Social-Studies/Ohio-s-Learning-Standards-for-Social-Studies/SSFinalStandards01019.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US

 

Dr. Amy Bottomley, Director of Education Initiatives 

Dr. Amy Bottomley is the Director of Educational Initiatives at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She has earned a B.S. in Secondary Education: Social Studies, a M.Ed. in Reading Education, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Amy has taught high school social studies and reading courses in Ohio and Maryland, as well as teacher education courses at the University of Cincinnati. She is dedicated to teaching for social justice and supporting teachers in their pursuit of inclusive classroom practices. Amy can be contacted at (513) 333-7586 or at abottomley@nurfc.org.

Public Education Needs to Evolve: Why We Oppose OH H.B. Nos. 322 and 327

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October 26, 2021

Public Education Needs to Evolve: Why We Oppose OH H.B. Nos. 322 and 327

From the beginning, the U.S. placed value on educating its citizens. As colonies became states, public school laws were passed. As the border pushed westward, public schools were erected in newly formed settlements. In fact, the one-room, frontier schoolhouse became an iconic symbol of America’s past.

In the mid-19th century, Americans decided to fund public education for all, choosing to “establish and sustain the world’s most universal and popular system of education” (Mondale & Bernard, 2001). It was a grassroots movement that created a large-scale system of local public schools funded by local tax dollars. One might say, of the people, by the people, for the people. Today, all 50 states have compulsory education laws for children.

Teaching the American Identity

Americans did this because they understood that a democratic nation would only survive if its citizens were educated. As our new nation struggled to find its identity, “citizens came to believe that schooling was a public good essential to the health of the nation” (Mondale & Bernard, 2001). The problem was deciding what to teach. What would students learn from this education? What information, understandings, skills, and values did one need to become a productive member of civic society? These questions continue to be debated and shape public education into the 21st century as the politics of education plays out in local school boards, state legislatures, and federal institutions. Currently, two Ohio House Bills targeting public education are in committee. Ohio H.B. Nos. 322 and 327 aim to prohibit what and how teachers teach in public schools and state agencies. The debate continues.

I argue that at the heart of this debate is our struggle to find an American identity. Who are we and what do we believe? The U.S. has been in constant evolution shaped by changing borders, immigration, industrialization, technology, and globalization. We’ve progressed in our understandings of science, math, literature, and the social studies. Education has evolved. Research has not only changed what we teach, but how we teach. With a better understanding of how humans learn, teachers are better equipped to maximize understanding and skill development. We’ve come a long way from the lessons taught in the one-room schoolhouse.

History for All of Us

The evolution of this country includes the diversification of its citizens. Remember when I said in the mid-19th century, Americans decided to fund public education for all, and talked about publication education of the people, by the people, for the people? That isn’t entirely true.

In the mid-19th century, there were approximately 3.5 million enslaved people of African heritage in the country and strict literacy laws prohibiting their education. Not to mention the free Black population in mostly northern states who faced discrimination in public education. And let’s not forget the approximately 300,000 American Indians who resided in U.S. states and territories. As native nations fought to maintain sovereignty, others were forced into citizenship. Many native children were required to attend boarding schools with the intent of “Americanizing” them.

Did you notice this mistake? Probably not because you were likely taught U.S. history from a white, male, European perspective. For years and years, this was the norm, but we are evolving. Educators now recognize the need to include multiple, diverse perspectives when analyzing the past. This has led to a broader understanding of our American heritage, and better represents the history of all citizens. History is a mixture of everyone’s experiences and perspectives. While there is factual evidence of people, places, and events; there often isn’t one correct way to interpret them. As James Baldwin said, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” We are not a perfect nation with a perfect past. What matters now is that we learn from it and strive for a better tomorrow. This requires public education to teach history from multiple perspectives and include the beautiful and the terrible.

Read About OH H.B. Nos. 322 and 327

https://ohiohouse.gov/legislation/134/hb322

https://ohiohouse.gov/legislation/134/hb327

Ohio H.B. Nos. 322 and 327 do not support this evolution. When you read them (see the included links), this becomes apparent. The bills prohibit certain concepts from being taught and aims to tell a version of America where sexism and racism did not impact our modern society. The bills also discourage educators from discussing these concepts in the classroom. The wording of the bills leaves much to interpretation and could dissuade teachers from including diverse perspectives when analyzing past and current events. They want us to focus on the beautiful but not the terrible.

Evolving for the Better

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what it never will be. - Thomas Jefferson

Acknowledging the words of Thomas Jefferson, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what it never will be,” I suggest that our American identity value an evolved, educated, participatory citizenry. Thus, public education should teach the information, understandings, and skills necessary to become a productive member of civic society. The U.S. is a representative democracy, so we need citizens who value inquiry and will question our leaders and the status quo. In the age of the internet and social media, we need citizens who value facts and evidence and can identify credible and non-credible information. Because we are a vast and diverse country, we need citizens who value diversity and seek out multiple perspectives. Since democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people, we need citizens who value communication and who discuss, debate, and deliberate with one another and then advocate for issues they believe in. Finally, because we are products of our history, we need citizens who value the lessons of the past and will apply them in creating a better tomorrow for all Americans.

Of course American is evolving. The world is evolving. The question is, will we evolve for the better? Will we learn from the past, assess our values, and move towards progress? Or will we ignore our mistakes and retreat into a past that was less accommodating to diversity and multiple perspectives?


Mondale, S. & Bernard, S. C. (Eds.). (2001). School: The story of American public education. Boston: Beacon Press.

 

Dr. Amy Bottomley, Director of Education Initiatives 

Dr. Amy Bottomley is the Director of Educational Initiatives at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She has earned a B.S. in Secondary Education: Social Studies, a M.Ed. in Reading Education, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Amy has taught high school social studies and reading courses in Ohio and Maryland, as well as teacher education courses at the University of Cincinnati. She is dedicated to teaching for social justice and supporting teachers in their pursuit of inclusive classroom practices. Amy can be contacted at (513) 333-7586 or at abottomley@nurfc.org.