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Ohio House committee talks ‘American Birthright,’ social studies standards





A task force to revise Ohio K-12 social studies standards to be in line with an “American Birthright” model being pushed by a Trump-aligned group would have more time to come up with the standards under an amended Ohio House bill currently being considered by committee.

But that timeline doesn’t allow for enough time, some Democrats on the committee argued in a recent hearing on House Bill 103.

The bill would direct that task force to create K-12 academic standards in social studies, with a specific model mention in the bill, called the “American Birthright.” The model, developed by a Trump-aligned, right-wing group called The Civics Alliance, promotes patriotism and Christian history in America, while seeking to prevent the “subornation of civics education to political recruitment tools,” according to documents on the model.

Bill sponsor state Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, listed as an American Birthright policymaker in the model documents, said the Civics Alliance doesn’t provide a specific curriculum along with its model.

The model, and the bill itself, has been criticized by the American Historical Association as unnecessary and focused on the wrong group creating social studies standards. The group said that unlike when the standards are developed by the state agencies and education experts, this model would “hobble” students.

An amendment made to the bill would give the task for six months after the bill’s effective date, if passed, to produce a report recommending standards for a curriculum.

That report would then head back to the General Assembly, where legislators would look over the recommended standards and decide whether to approve them in each Statehouse chamber.

Democratic committee members, like state Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, said as they understand it, developing state content standards “requires far more than six months.”

Jones was asked by Lightbody if he truly expected the task force to produce a report “that would have complete K-12, newly revised state standards in a six-month period.”

“That’s true, that’s correct,” Jones said, adding that he felt it was important to set a timeline so that “we are working in a timely fashion and that it gets done.”

The curriculum itself, however, wouldn’t be up to the state, Jones said.

“That’s going to be up to the local school boards to decide that curriculum that meets those standards,” Jones said. “This isn’t a pre-packaged deal that we’re trying to ram through.”

State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, said he was still concerned six months was not enough time, even with the required approval from the state legislators to set the standards. But to him, it didn’t seem as though the task force would be required to do much work if the model was already sitting in front of them before they even began deliberating.

“It sounds to me like these standards have already been created by this American Birthright group, and there are just going to be these dog and pony show, ‘come on in, tell us what you think, we’ve already got the standards here, thanks very much, we’re sending them to the House and Senate,’” Miller said.

The amendment was added to the bill 10-5, with objections from the Dems on the committee.

Though the bill was in its fifth hearing, no vote was taken.

With a GOP majority in both chambers, it’s likely the bill would pass despite Democratic objections if brought to the Senate and House floors.

Democrats are promoting a different social studies bill, House Bill 171, which would require the Ohio State Board of Education to update the state social studies standards to include “age and grade-appropriate instruction in the migration journeys, experiences and societal contributions of a range of communities in Ohio and the United States.”

That bill was referred to House Primary and Secondary Education at the end of May, and has yet to receive a hearing.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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