The Status of Senate Bill 1278 and the History-Social Science Framework

By Campbell, Duane | Social Studies Review, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Status of Senate Bill 1278 and the History-Social Science Framework


Campbell, Duane, Social Studies Review


The History-Social Science Framework for California public schools is over twenty years old, out of date, and in need of revision. Textbooks for California schools are selected by the State Board of Education based upon recommendations of their Curriculum Committees and the state frameworks and standards. This makes many of the texts in our schools out of date. The current Framework was written in 1986 and published in 1987 after a great deal of controversy over the limited inclusion of the history of ethnic minorities in the Framework. It is now urgent that the Framework be revised to provide an accurate history of the contributions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos and Asians to the history of the state and of the nation and to update the economic perspectives presented.

Standards and frameworks are products of the people who make the decisions. Frameworks like standards pick winners and losers; the choices that committees make favor one group over another group and choices are based upon the political power of those represented on the committees. The Framework is supposed to be revised each 7 years but it has not been revised. The current Framework reflects the historiography of the 1970's and the political balance of power of the 1980's.

During the winter and spring of 2009 , a committee of teachers and other educators appointed by the State Board of Education met to review the current History-Social Science Curriculum Framework and to recommend revisions . The committee met in a series of two-day public sessions, which were well attended by professionals and civic advocates concerned about the content of history and social studies education in California.

A new draft Framework was prepared based upon the work of the committee, but the state budget crisis prevented the required review, revision, and adoption. In 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed $144,000 that was to be used by the Curriculum Commission to complete the adoption process and a legislative effort to fund the review (SB 1278) was held in committee. Consequently, the 1987 Framework remains in effect as the policy guidelines for the state.

California has the largest population of any state, with more than 6,191,000 students in school in 2009. Latino students comprise over 3,191 ,000 students, or more than 50 percent of the total (CDE, 2010), and Latinos make up more than 22 percent of the state legislature. Certainly these Latinos came from somewhere. They too have a history. California students make up more than 1 1 percent of the United States total. California, along with some 16 other states, adopts textbooks for the entire state instead of district by district. This makes the California adoption the largest single textbook sale in the nation (Campbell, 2010).

The 1980's were the age of Ronald Reagan. As Governor he appointed members of the State Board of Education. The Board appointments continued his conservative legacy long after he became President. The view of history that won the cultural wars over the History-Social Science Framework in California in 1987 was crafted by historian Diane Ravitch and former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig, among others (Ravitch, 2010, Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995).

The 1987 Framework still in use today expanded African American, Native American, and women's history coverage but remained glaringly inadequate in the coverage of Latinos and Asians. Together these groups make up more than 60% of the school age population. The only significant change between the 1985 and the 2005 adopted Framework was the addition of a new cover, a cover letter, and additions of photos such as of Cesar Chavez.

The dominant neo conservative view of history argues that textbooks and a common history should provide the glue that unites our society. Historical themes and interpretations are selected in books to create unity in a diverse and divided society, a unity from the point of view of historians from the dominant class . …

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