Sutherland Institute launches new series to examine how education standards prepare students to be active citizens

September 1, 2020

In a time of civil unrest, when people are scrutinizing America’s history more than ever, we should ask: Are Utah social studies standards doing their job?

And just what is the job of state standards? Standards (created at the state level) are meant to guide educators in choosing curriculum (chosen at the local level) and employing pedagogy during their day-to-day interactions as teachers.

As for social studies standards specifically, their job is to guide teachers in helping students fulfill their role as citizens in the American republic. This includes understanding free speech in a pluralistic society, comprehending the purposes and realities of a free press, defending the role of religious freedom privately and publicly, grasping the protections of due process, and understanding other fundamental principles as they are lived out today.

Helping students fulfill the lofty goal of continuing the American republic is a tall order. It requires the participation of parents and the expertise of educators, and it also requires the diligence of policymakers to create state standards that are sufficient guideposts.

State academic standards are created by the Utah State Board of Education, or USBE. Periodically, they are reviewed and revised in a public process – something that is taking place for the social studies standards right now.

Which is why it is so important people are aware of standards – so they can see where the standards are doing a good job, and where they fall short.

At the heart of Sutherland’s research series is the question: Do Utah standards for social studies assist educators in helping students fulfill their duties in civil society and government?

We will analyze this question in a series that looks at the current standards and how well they address the following non-exhaustive list of American freedoms: free speech, freedom of the press, religious liberty, due process, equality before the law, and checks and balances.

If you’d like us to look at how the Utah State Social Standards prepare students in light of other fundamental concepts, rights or responsibilities, please reach out to us at si@sifreedom.org.

Update: For clarity, this introduction to our new series was modified on October 7, 2020, so that the central research focus is reflected in one question (italicized above) rather than two separate questions.

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