TITLE: Centering Critical and Multiple Perspectives to Transform Social Studies: Inclusive Narratives in Minnesota’s Elementary Social Studies Standards
ABSTRACT: During the Fall of 2020, amidst world-wide uprisings for racial justice as well as orders from United States President Trump to promote exclusionary dominant narratives, the Minnesota Department of Education began a stakeholder-involved process of revising the K-12 social studies standards, which happens every seven-ten years. These coinciding events sparked my interest in my central research question for this thesis: In what ways do Minnesota’s Elementary social studies standards need to be revised to include critical and multiple perspectives? Action research framed my methods. First, I reviewed key literature using the theoretical framework of critical policy analysis, which examines the role of educational systems in maintaining or interrupting inequity. Next, I applied critical policy analysis and themes from the literature review to create a table of questions to analyze the Minnesota K-6 civics and history standard benchmarks for whether or not and how they included multiple perspectives. Using my table of questions, I identified at least half of all the benchmarks I analyzed to be in need of revision. In addition, about one third of the total number of benchmarks I analyzed ignored the role of systemic oppression or connections between historic oppression and continuing inequities. Similarly, about one third of all the benchmarks I analyzed failed to affirm the accomplishments or collective resistance of marginalized groups. Last, I wrote revised versions of the benchmarks I identified as needing the most revisions. Given my findings, I concluded that the current benchmarks are policies that serve to maintain power for dominant groups by excluding multiple and critical perspectives. Revising the Minnesota K-6 civics and history standards, as well as better preparing educators to teach inclusive narratives using culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogies, can help transform social studies education.
COMPLETED: December 2020