From Jennifer and Marc Richards, on April 26, 2018: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is revising standards for the statewide history and social studies curriculum for the first time in 15 years. Elementary and secondary American History classes have traditionally diminished or erased the contributions of women and minorities in building our nation, establishing only a few token figures to perpetuate an exclusionary lens on history that leaves children of color and girls feeling disconnected and disempowered. Tragically, the new proposed standards do nothing to correct this familiar yet inaccurate “great white male” narrative. This is particularly true in the proposed K-5 standards: of specific individuals referenced, 4 percent are white women, 5 percent are African-American men and 5 percent are African-American women.

A deeper analysis of the proposed standards raises troubling questions: Why is 86 percent of the content about white men? Why does the third-grade curriculum fail to mention any women historical figures by name? Why, for the fourth-grade curriculum, are all named historical figures exclusively white men? Why are zero Latino or Asian Americans referenced by name in JK-5? Why aren’t we going beyond tokenism to give children of color and girls accurate, positive role models from every stage of our nation’s history? Massachusetts is a progressive state that deeply values education. With this standards revision, we have an opportunity to lead the nation in correcting the whitewashing of American history. Please join us in contacting [email protected] and state legislators to encourage adoption of a more well-rounded history curriculum.


The writers are Cambridge Public Schools parents.