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States mandate 'bias-free' primary sources in U.S. history classes

States mandate 'bias-free' primary sources in U.S. history classes

States mandate 'bias-free' primary sources in U.S. history classes
Sep 20, 2022 1 min, 34 secs

A growing number of state legislatures have mandated primary sources in American history classes to purge racially divisive bias from K-12 public education as the school year begins.

Ten states have passed laws requiring primary sources, according to the Ohio-based Ashbrook Center, an independent program at Ashland University that supplies core documents and trains teachers in their use.

“Studying the words of those who actually lived and breathed American history fosters true understanding, appreciation for, and application of our past to the challenges we face today, free of bias and whitewashing,” Jeff Sikkenga, the center’s director, said in an email.

Sikkenga said 30,000 teachers, mostly at public schools, will use the center’s materials this year.

Kentucky’s new law requires public schools to use copies of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents from a list supplied by Ashbrook.

“It is dependent on the teacher and the philosophy of the school or district on how the documents are interpreted,” said Pam Benigno, director of the Education Policy Center at the Independence Institute in Denver.

South Carolina’s Senate Bill 38 specifies that schools must teach “the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Declaration of Independence to each student.”.

Kimberly Fletcher, president of the conservative group Moms for America, says using primary sources addresses the concern of many parents that textbooks indoctrinate students with a liberal bias while ignoring basic knowledge.

Practiced in small circles for decades, primary source education resembles the Great Books programs at many U.S.

Robert Bortins, CEO of the Christian home education program Classical Conversations, says homeschoolers have used primary sources for years partly because “timeless materials” are cheaper than textbooks.

Not everyone is sold on the idea that the new state laws will remove political bias from public education.

He says it’s impossible to teach primary sources without explaining their context


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