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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

DC 2nd-graders will study gender roles in Rome, Aksum and China

Chinese emperors used eunuchs -- castrated before puberty -- as servants and court officials.

Writing social studies standards is always controversial. Often they're vague and meaningless, but sometimes they're insanely detailed, pretending that students can learn everything about everything. And standards reflect the politics of the day.

The District of Columbia's Draft Social Studies Standards, are a "witches brew" of "controversial ideas presented as historical facts" and "anachronistic postmodern concepts," writes Renaud Beauchard.

There's little about local issues. Children are expected to think "globally."

Should DC second-graders be required to “analyze the daily lives of different individuals in ancient societies including history of same-sex relationships and gender fluidity in civilizations” and “compare societies of long ago to societies today with a focus on gender roles, technology, and relationship with the natural environment?” Should high school students be expected to “explain the historical context of ‘Eurocentrism’ and the lasting social, political, and economic impacts on countries and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean of sources from the past?”

Children will be taught a "simplistic binary of Good versus Evil, or the oppressed and the oppressors," he writes.

The standards' Guiding Principles state that social studies is best defined as “the study of power and bias.” Many historians (and D.C. parents) do not agree that history should be seen as "as a zero-sum power struggle between oppressed and oppressor groups," writes Beauchard.

"Students are given the misleading impression that non-European premodern societies shared the same liberal cosmopolitan values that are popular among certain segments of America today," he writes. "For example, second graders are required to consider 'gender roles' in Rome, Aksum or Ancient China and to discuss the role of 'gender fluidity' in pre-modern societies."

The dynasty that ruled Aksum, in what's now Ethiopia and Eritrea, was descended from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, according to legend. Later, Aksum became Christian.

Virginia's proposed new history standards are a step forward, writes Andrew Rotherham.

The current standards call for "describing the cultural, economic, and constitutional issues that divided the nation" before the Civil War and "explaining how the issues of states’ rights and slavery increased sectional tensions."

The new standards: Students should learn "how the institution of slavery was the cause of the Civil War, and secondary factors that contributed to the secession of the southern states."

Critics ignore this, he writes, as well as the addition "of a range of issues from Jim Crow and racial terror to civil rights to the expansion of rights for LGBT Americans."

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