Wise says bill's goal is to teach American principles and 'unify'


FRANKFORT – A bill that seeks to educate students on the foundations of America’s principles through the inclusion of primary source historical documents was adopted by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.

Senate Bill 138 is sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who says it differs from many earlier versions, by setting guidelines to include core material that must be taught, rather than banning curriculum many deem controversial.

“I drafted this bill as a means to unify us,” Wise said. “It is critical that our children in grades K-12 are educated in not only the good, but also the controversial aspects of our history, and in understanding the key American principles of equality, freedom and personal agency. These are the ideals that make our country uniquely special.”

SB 138 extends existing elementary history standards to middle and high school and reflect concerns and feedback from educators and parents alike, Wise said.  It incorporates references to key people, events, struggles, challenges and continued successes that have cemented American democratic principles of equality, freedom and individual rights. Through studying a baseline of 24 primary source core historical documents, students will learn to think critically about the founding of the nation and how to think rather than what to think.

The baseline documents outlined in SB 138 include core documents recognized by the Ashbrook Center, which includes work from various social studies scholars and promotes inducing young people to the real story of America, the good and the bad, through primary documents.

Wise says he met with leaders of 1776 Unites, a project by the non-partisan Woodson Center, on the best way to address the educational and cultural challenges presented within K-12 history curricula in the state.  The Interim Joint Education Committee heard testimony from Ian Rowe.  1776 Unites encourages lawmakers to include tenants in the legislation teaching students to strive toward upward mobility, become free critical thinkers and create their own destiny.

In addition to upgrading history standards, SB 138 prohibits the requirement or incentivization of students to complete assignments or projects political or socially ideological in nature, if deemed to be against the values or objections of the student or their family.  Projects assigned must be age appropriate and relevant to the knowledge level, maturity and understanding of the students assigned to, along with being nondiscriminatory and respectful in nature.

The bill passed 9-4 and now heads to the Senate floor.

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