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I have submitted the following feedback in regards to the proposed changes to the Georgia Social Studies Curriculum and Standards. I am not in agreement with the elimination of the study of the Holocaust and slavery from the 6th grade curriculum. If you are so inclined please feel free to add your comments via the survey below. I encourage you to read through the proposed changes HERE.
To review Crosswalks from Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) to Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE), specifically in 6th Grade Social Studies, click HERE (see pg. 41 and 46).
Survey of Revised Social Studies Standards (enter comments at the end)
I am in opposition to changing the SS curriculum as it relates to eliminating the study of The Holocaust and slavery in 6th grade.
The work the Inman 6th grade students and teachers immersed themselves in this year in regards to the holocaust was incredibly powerful. I know I will never forget it, that is how compelling it was-I had tears and goose bumps during the many parts of this study. Over the past 3 weeks I have observed 390 students doing paired reading on The Diary of Anne Frank in the school hallways and lobby. Their absorption of this material and rich discussions have only added to the impact of this unit of study.
In January those same 390 (and 18 teachers) sat spellbound for one solid hour listening to a survivor of the Holocaust. Many of those students participated in an impromptu letter writing project that same day in which they wrote letters to Mr. Greenblat putting themselves in his place as a young boy experiencing his life, pain, and the horrific conditions in Europe during that time.
Other students got together and worked to replicate the Red Cross box and its contents that Mr. Greenblat was given when he arrived at Ellis Island many years ago. I don’t mean they got an old shoebox and bought some things at CVS. They made a wooden box and found exact replicas of the items he was given–overnight. They did this on their own–no teacher prompting or assistance. Those students also wrote personal letters to him. He and Mrs. Greenblat came back the next day and we absolutely speechless. He has spoken many times at many schools and has never had students assimilate his words and experiences like ours did. Both Greenblats cried because they felt the horrific experience endured by Mr. Gleenblat, his family, and millions of other Jews was understood and respected. I was stunned at the level of emotion from the students, teachers, and myself as well.
I have spent many years as an elementary and middle school principal and know that a lot of deep learning happens when the timing is right in accordance to students’ academic and emotional maturity levels. In order to make the 7th grade SS curriculum relevant to students you have to have the “stickiness” that the current 6th grade curriculum gives. Having two sons in 7th grade now I can tell you (and they would too probably) that the geography and standards covered would have much less meaning and permanence without the richness of the 6th SS experience.
Students have to understand slavery in many different contexts to understand the history as well as present experience of people all over the world still living in bondage, servitude, poverty, and fighting for basic human rights others take for granted. Students have to have the 6th grade background in order to even start to understand apartheid, oppression, and how very complicated the study of world religions is. Students can’t begin to understand selections from “Red Scarf Girl ” by Ji-Li Jiang or “The Good Earth” by Pearl S . Buck much less all the forms of government currently and historically operating in Africa and Asia without the richness of an effective 6th grade SS experience.
Middle school is the perfect time to dive into these important parts of our world’s human experience as students’ minds and hearts are wide open to comprehending the causes, conditions, pain of these historic times. It can’t be expected for 8th grade teachers to teach these huge standards as part of a limited Georgia History curriculum. We can’t offer 8th grade students a relevant learning experience of slavery and the Holocaust experience based on what happened only in Georgia or in a brief exploration of the Civil War, WWI and WWII.
Please add my voice to the group requesting to keep these critical topics in the 6th grade SS curriculum.