D.C. scraps 'heroes and holiday treatment of history,' implements new 'anti-racist' curriculum

The K-12 social studies standards are designed to be 'culturally inclusive' with frequent learning about 'white supremacy' and 'colonization.'

High schoolers will learn about 'LGBTQ+ resistance to Nazism' and the 'widespread terror and violence implemented by mostly white Americans.'

On June 21, Washington, D.C.’s State Board of Education approved new “anti-racist” social studies standards for grades K-12 in public and charter schools that will teach students to analyze the harmful effects of white supremacy and colonization across U.S. and world history, as well as embrace tenets of Critical Race Theory to explain power structures.

In contrast to the previous social studies standard from 2006, the latest version will explicitly discuss white supremacy. The basis for an updated curriculum came in December 2020 when the Social Studies Standards Advisory Committee issued its “Guiding Principles” publication that explained today’s students are living in a “globally interconnected and culturally diverse” world.

Washington, D.C. schools will officially implement the new standards during the 2024-2025 academic year.

The advisory committee urged for a new standard that would advance “beyond a ‘heroes and holiday’ treatment” of history, and instead offer “culturally inclusive and anti-racist” material that will “impart important social studies content in the early grades, strengthen student knowledge of democratic principles and values, and promote civic engagement.”

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“White supremacy has impacted all races and groups of people, even those who identify as white,” the committee noted. “With an anti-racist framing, District students would be more aware of the role of policy and history in shaping current racial and economic inequities.” 

The committee also recommended that the “revised standards should also focus on the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT) when describing power structures and systems.”

At the Kindergarten level, students should be able to recognize that “sometimes rules are unfair, but people can work to change them.” They will be also instructed to identify “different kinds of families and caregivers within a community (e.g., single-parent, blended, grandparent-headed, conditionally separated, foster, LGBTQ+, multiracial), and explain the importance of demonstrating respect for all people.”

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By the fourth grade, students will learn about “important contributions of diverse Americans while evaluating the ways American history has led to conflict, exploitation and unfairness.” This will include discussions on how “colonization created opportunities and limitations for people, partly depending on their race, social class, religion and/or gender.”

Fourth graders will also analyze the “impact of European colonization and oppression on the human rights of Indigenous Nations.”

For high school students, they may be instructed on matters like “LGBTQ+ resistance to Nazism” or the lasting effects of “the systematized tactics and impact of widespread terror and violence implemented by mostly white Americans.”

The D.C. State Board of Education’s new guidelines have received the endorsement of the influential National Council for the Social Studies, and were backed by professors from NYU, Columbia University, Howard University, and the University of Maryland, among others.

The push for CRT ideology in K-12 schools follows ongoing trends of implementation in higher education.

In May, Campus Reform reported that the University of California, San Francisco was offering students numerous resources as part of its Anti-Racism Initiative, including an “inclusive and diverse” library, webinars on “Anti-Blackness,” and an “Antiracism and Race Literary” toolkit.

Similarly, Campus Reform recently covered how Cornell University provides a free five-hour-long online course to help white people “become better allies in the fight against racism.”  

Campus Reform has reached out to all relevant parties for comment. This story will be updated accordingly.

Follow Emily Fowler on Twitter.