Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Last week, the Department of Public Instruction "highly recommend[ed]" that social studies teachers use the curriculum it is paying The Bill of Rights Institute, a purportedly conservative group, to develop. The Institute receives grants from the Koch brothers, who are extremely politically active and conservative, and their foundations. It is also worth noting that the state contract to develop materials was sole-sourced to the Institute. The state's explanation was that the Institute was the only one qualified to develop a founding principles curriculum. Harry Watson, a history professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, said "I think the Koch brothers have demonstrated they have a strong and active partisan interest in politics,” he said. “I don’t think the public school curriculum should be written from a partisan perspective.”
The Institute may very well produce a balanced curriculum. In that event, the sole sourcing of the materials may be the only question, but if the final curriculum is intentionally skewed, it will implicate the same legal issues I discussed last week in regard to Texas's recent textbook selections. North Carolina teachers, however, still question why the Department of Public Instruction is dictating specific curriculum in social studies because it does not in other areas. Moreover, local teachers indicate that they are already using the founding documents and discussing their principles in class. Thus, the Institute's curriculum will either be redundant of their current teaching practices or, they fear, impose a narrow perspective of the founding principles.