by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
I am proud to announce the release of American Birthright, model social studies developed by some of the nation’s top historians and scholars to teach America’s foundational history of liberty.
American Birthright teaches students to identify the ideals, institutions, and individual examples of human liberty, individualism, religious freedom, and republican self-government; assess the extent to which civilizations have fulfilled these ideals; and describe how the evolution of these ideals in different times and places has contributed to the formation of modern American ideals.
Above all, American Birthright teaches about the expansion of American liberty to include all Americans, the contributions that Americans from every walk of life have made to our shared history of liberty, and America’s championship of liberty throughout the world. Students will learn of heroes of liberty such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ronald Reagan.
American Birthright is a project of the Civics Alliance, a coalition of organizations and individuals convened by the National Association of Scholars and dedicated to improving America’s civics education. I was honored to serve on the executive and steering committees for the project, and I am grateful that John Locke Foundation leadership agreed to join the American Birthright coalition. I am also pleased that North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson is the highest-ranking public official in the nation to endorse the standards.
Standards are grade- and subject-specific outlines of the content, concepts, and skills that state education officials expect all educators to cover during the academic year. Curriculum is specific course content either developed by the teacher or obtained from an external source. Teachers may tailor day-to-day instructional materials and assessments to meet the unique needs of their students, so long as the content is consistent with the adopted curriculum and the academic standards that inform it.
In this way, American Birthright is a framework that supports the use of a content-rich curriculum. The American Birthright website offers a list of curriculum resources for educators. Resources for North Carolina educators are available from the North Carolina History Project. Additional lesson plans and instructional materials that may be used in conjunction with currently adopted state standards are forthcoming.
The North Carolina State Board of Education adopted controversial social studies standards in 2021, so state education officials may be hesitant to begin the process anew. But I believe American Birthright is far superior to the politically charged standards championed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s appointees to the State Board of Education. Unlike our adopted standards, American Birthright is not awash in identity politics, nor does it repackage leftist ideologies under the guise of “equity.”
I support an effort to discard our current standards in favor of American Birthright. That said, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction would need to modify American Birthright to ensure that the standards meet statutory requirements for social studies education and include local, state, and regional histories.