On March 16, two members of the State Education Board and one official from the Education Department came to Roanoke as part of their statewide tour seeking feedback regarding updated SOL social studies standards for K-12 students in public schools. In the interest of fostering a healthy community discussion about these crucial topics, I share the text here that I submitted in writing to the committee. Also, these notes form the gist of my brief remarks to the committee.
First, many thanks for boldly swimming against the tide and trying to raise school standards. Second, thanks for providing these opportunities for feedback by making the effort to travel around the state. We appreciate your approachability and availability. It’s a refreshing change.
My name is Scott Dreyer, basically a life-long resident of the Roanoke Valley. I share this feedback as a stakeholder from multiple perspectives:
- As a grade 1-12 graduate of the Roanoke County School System and William and Mary, where I earned a BA in history with a minor in secondary education, and Junior Year in Germany.
- As a licensed teacher from 1987 until today with endorsements in history and German, and have been teaching every year since. That includes 10 years teaching in Taiwan where I learned Mandarin and eleven years at Roanoke City’s Patrick Henry High School–go Patriots!
- As a small business owner.
- As a dad and grandfather concerned about the country.
- As a concerned citizen, voter, and taxpayer, and finally…
- As a columnist with The Roanoke Star.com.
The SOL’s for all grade levels look fine to me, and the only small edit I suggest is to replace the “CE” with the historical labels “BC” and “AD.” Teaching that will help students more readily understand historical documents from the past that normally used those terms. Many students know that “BC” stands for “Before Christ” but they mistakenly believe “AD” means “After Death,” which it does not. It’s Anno Domini, so that lets students learn some Latin too. Plus, lots of students expressed shock that our current year is based on the (approximate) year of Christ’s birth. For those who claim “BC and AD are too Christian-centric,” I would explain that BCE and CE are still based on the same year, so changing the names is just a kind of “Newspeak.”
So, “full steam ahead” with the changes to raise standards. While we Americans are busy arguing over transgender bathrooms, porn in school libraries, etc., much of the rest of the world is marching on and leaving us in the dust.
I work routinely with students in East Asia and it’s normal for them to be two to three years ahead of Americans in math. Their school days are usually 8-10 hours long, with extra tutoring at night and on weekends, and they’re learning SAT-level English vocabulary, grammar and reading.
The combination of lowered standards, bad behavior, political correctness, and opposition to excellence finally spurred me to leave public school teaching in 2010. The current teacher shortages should surprise no one.
I am so passionate about social studies education quality, I have written two recent columns. One is about Newark, NJ being scammed into signing a Sister-Cities agreement with a nation that doesn’t exist. This second one discusses the crucial need for a civics-aware population.
Thank you and more power to you.