Kentucky social studies classrooms are now required to teach 24 historical documents, and the Interim Joint Committee on Education heard testimony on Tuesday from the Kentucky Department of Education on how they plan to implement these new standards.
Ohio’s conservative Ashbrook Center recommended the documents that are part of Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel (R-Union). The legislation is designed to include these documents and give more power to superintendents by taking away control from Site-Based Decision-Making Councils (SBDM).
Micki Ray, the chief academic officer at KDE, said that the department planned to review the standards in 2025, but SB 1 moved up the timeline of the review.
“We moved very quickly with the passage of the law to reconvene the social studies advisory panel and review committee to come together to discuss how they were going to incorporate the required documents into the Kentucky academic standards for social studies,” she said.
The documents include speeches and other texts such as The Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence, The Gettysburg Address, the Atlanta Exposition Address by Booker T. Washington, A Time for Choosing by Ronald Reagan, and The Monroe Document by James Monroe, among others.
But, the document portion was a late addition to SB 1 in the 2022 legislative session. Initially, the document portion was part of SB 138, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) or called the Teaching American Principles Act, and it drew both fervent support from supporters and opponents.
Opponents argued at the time that the bill would “whitewash” history lessons in Kentucky classrooms. Louisville Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey questioned any document recommendations from the Ashbrook Center.
“If we’re going to be setting curriculum, we need to be honest about the place from which this curriculum comes,” McGarvey said. “No matter how well these documents are, or their place in history, they’re coming from a list provided by the Ashbrook Center … a right-wing educational center located at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.”
Sen. Wise said he wanted to approach the topic from a stance of unity and positivity and by not telling teachers what they could teach.
“Considering what we have witnessed unfolding in school board meetings across our nation, I felt it crucial to address the United States history curriculum issue during this year’s legislative session,” Wise said.