Mar 15, 2019 by

I gave a presentation on Social Studies Standards at the March 8, 2019 Nebraska State Board of Education Meeting.  In the talk and the following report, I differentiate between an exemplary Type #1 education and a weak Type #2 education.  To illustrate Type #1 and Type #2 standards, I utilize actual standards from Nebraska and Texas.  My 10-minute testimony begins at about Time Mark 3:30 and ends at 13:30.  This is a Link to the video of the State Board Meeting:

Your State Could Have Strong Type #1 Social Studies Standards

By Henry W. Burke


With good knowledge-based standards, students will receive a high-quality education; test scores will improve; graduation rates will increase; and Nebraska will have a better-educated citizenry. 

This report provides the guidelines and approach required to obtain strong Type #1 Social Studies Standards.


It is extremely important to understand a few fundamentals of education standards.  In my 1.31.14 report, “Proposed Nebraska English Standards,” I described the two philosophies of education.  The report explained:

          Most importantly, first-class state standards must be Type #1, not Type #2!

          Education expert Donna Garner has developed terminology that differentiates between an exemplary, traditional education (Type #1) and the project-based, subjectively assessed philosophy of education as exemplified in Common Core Standards (Type #2).  Mrs. Garner has stated:

          ‘Basically Type #1 means the curriculum standards are traditional/knowledge-based/academic, emphasize back-to-the-basics core knowledge and skills that grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next, are specific for each grade level (or course), and can be tested largely through objective questions that have right-or-wrong answers.’

          Exemplary education standards must be Type #1!  

          Common Core Standards as well as school-to-work, outcome-based education, competency –based education, etc. are examples of Type #2.

          With Type #2 education, students work in groups, receive group grades, and receive project-based learning (constructivism).  Tests (assessments) have many subjective questions with few if any right or wrong answers; the people scoring the tests determine what is correct. The emphasis for the students becomes the process instead of the right answers.

Donna Garner provided the following insights:

          If we want our public school children to learn to read well, we must have Type #1.

          If we want them to be able to speak and write English well, then we must have Type #1.

          If we want our public school children to be able to do well in foreign languages, then we must have Type #1 that teaches the phonetic sound system and grammar/usage in English so that they can apply that to their foreign language learning.  

          If we want our public school children to read the great pieces of literature that have connected our country to past generations, then we must have Type #1.

          If we want our public school children to have the skills and knowledge they need for college and/or the workplace, then we must have Type #1.

A handy chart lists the characteristics of a Type #1 vs. a Type #2 education: 


Type #1 (Traditional) vs. Type #2 (CSCOPE & Common Core)

DescriptionType #1TraditionalClassical LearningType #2CSCOPE andCommon Core Standards Progressive,Radical Social Justice Agenda
InstructionDirect instruction by teacherSelf-directed learning, group-think Emphasis on:Subjectivity, feelings, emotions, beliefs, multiculturalism, political correctness, social engineering, globalism, evolution, sexual freedom, contraceptives, environmental extremism, global warming and climate change, victimization, diversity, acceptance of homosexuality as normal, redistribution of wealth  De-emphasis on:Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution, national sovereignty, Founding Fathers, American exceptionalism 
CurriculumAcademic, fact-based, skills, researchSocial concerns, project-based, constructivism, subjective, uses unproven fads and theories
Teacher’s RoleAuthority figure; sets the plan for the class; academic instructionFacilitator
Student’s RoleLearn from teacher; focus on factual learning, develop foundation skills for logical and analytical reasoning, independent thinkingStudents teach each other; focus on feelings, emotions, opinions; group-think
English, Language Arts, Reading (ELAR)Phonics; classical literature; cursive handwriting; grammar; usage; correct spelling; expository, persuasive, research writingWhole language, balanced literacy, Guided Reading; no cursive writing instruction so cannot read primary documents of Founding Fathers
Mathematics“Drill and Skill,” four math functions learned to automaticityFuzzy math, rejects drill and memorization of math facts, dependent on calculators
Social StudiesFocus on American heritage and exceptionalism, national sovereignty, Founding documentsDiversity, multiculturalism, globalization, revisionist history, political correctness
Character DevelopmentPro-faith, self-control, personal responsibility, self-discipline, solid work ethicSecular, moral relativism, anti-faith, victimization
EqualityEqual opportunitiesEqual outcomes
AssessmentStudents evaluated by earned grades, objective testsInflated grades, subjective assessments evaluated based upon value system of grader, group grades
OutcomesObjective tests (right-or-wrong answers), emphasis on academic skills and knowledgeSubjective assessments; emphasis on holistic, “feel good” scoring

Original chart produced by Carole H. Haynes, Ph.D. –

Revised chart produced by HWB 11.04.13.

At the 2.3.14 State Board Work Session, I expanded the parameters for exemplary standards to six items.  These would give teachers, students, and parents even more clarity. (For ease in communicating in this paper, I am going to refer to these as the “Burke parameters.”)  I stated the following:  

In order to have excellent state standards, they need to be:

          1.  Explicit

          2.  Knowledge-based…fact-based

          3.  Academic

          4.  Clearly-worded

          5.  Grade-level specific

          6.  Measurable

          If state standards comply with the six criteria listed above [the Burke parameters], teachers will not have to second-guess the standards writers.  School districts will not need to hire expensive consultants to “interpret” the standards nor to develop curriculum; it will be readily apparent what is required for each and every grade (and course). 

The “knowledge-based…fact based” parameter means that the standards elements must refer to traditional subject content.  The “academic” parameter means that the standards elements must not be geared toward indoctrinating children’s minds into the social justice agenda but instead are scholarly. 

  The “grade-level specific” means the standards must set clear goals for teachers and students to reach at each grade level/course.  Without clear written goals for each grade level/course, teachers will be confused as to which teacher is supposed to teach which standard.  Neither teachers nor students will feel true accountability for teaching/learning specific subject content.  Without clear written goals, how will parents know whether or not their children have reached grade-level proficiency?

I have repeated this list of the six parameters of good standards [the Burke parameters] many times during the ensuing months.  The State Board of Education and the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) might be tired of hearing these six points, but I believe there is considerable value in repetition.


The Nebraska Social Studies Standards are available in both the horizontal format and the vertical format.  The Standards (in Horizontal Format) are posted on the NDE website at:

When the standards are displayed in a Horizontal Format, a standard or skill can easily be followed from one grade level to the next grade level.  (The Nebraska English Standards and the Nebraska Mathematics Standards are available in both the vertical format and the horizontal format.)

The 2012 Nebraska Social Studies Standards in Vertical Format are listed here:

Because the 2012 Nebraska Social Studies Standards do not satisfy the six parameters of exemplary Type #1 standards, the Nebraska Standards are weak Type #2 standards. 

The six parameters are applied to the current Nebraska Social Studies Standards in the following examples:

1.  Explicit

Is this standard too vague for a third-grade student?

History – Grade 3

          Compare and contrast how various sources relate their perspective of history (e.g., community events).

ANSWER — The above standard is a vague Type #2 standard.

This standard is not very explicit:

Geography – Grades 6-8

          Identify and evaluate human adaptations to the environment from the local to the international levels (e.g., clothing, sewage systems, transportation systems, natural disasters, scarcity of resources).

This standard is very general:

History – High School

          (WLD) Evaluate how decisions affected events across the world (e.g., revolutions, alliances, treaties).

2.  Knowledge-based / fact-based

These History standards are shown:

History – Grade 5

          Describe concepts of time and chronology (e.g., BC, BCE, AD, CE and eras).

History — Grades 6-8

          (World: Beginnings to 1000 CE)

ANSWER – The above standards are Type #2.  

The long-established chronological convention is to denote years as BC and AD (e.g., 1,000 B.C. or 1,500 A.D.)  The writers of the Nebraska Social Studies Standards inserted the secular notion of BCE and CE, introducing unnecessary confusion.

Strong Type #1 standards are knowledge-based/fact-based that grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next.  With a possible span of six grade levels, little growth is required under these standards:

Civics – Grades 6-8

          Describe ways individuals participate in the political process (e.g., registering and voting, contacting government officials, campaign involvement).

Civics – High school

          Evaluate how individuals and groups can effectively use the structure and functions of various levels of government to shape policy (e.g., lobbying, voting, contacting government officials, petitioning).

3.  Academic

Strong standards must be academic, rather than based on the standard writer’s opinions, beliefs, or emotions.  Political correctness has no place in good standards.

This standard is not academic:

Economics – Grades 6-8

          Discuss various philosophies regarding governments’ role in an economy (e.g., capitalism, socialism).

The follow-up on “capitalism” and “socialism” in High School is very weak.

Economics – High School

          Evaluate the historical use of various economic systems.

This standard is biased and not very academic:

History – High School

          Analyze and evaluate how multiple perspectives facilitate the understanding of the full story of world history (e.g., the Crusades, nationalism, imperialism, apartheid, Arab/Israeli conflicts).

4.  Clearly-worded

Is this standard clearly worded for the teacher and a first-grade student?

Geography – Grade 1

          Give examples of how geographic knowledge or techniques have been applied in the past, present and future (e.g., make a map of the school).

ANSWER – The above standard is not clearly worded for a first grader.

Is this standard clearly worded?

Economics – High school

          Understand that equilibrium price and quantity are determined by supply and demand.

A teacher would have a difficult time applying this standard:

History – High School

           (WLD) Compare and evaluate contradictory historical narratives of Modern World History through determination of credibility, contextualization, and corroboration.

5.  Grade-level specific

A major deficiency in the Nebraska Social Studies Standards is that they are not grade-level specific.  Nebraska’s Social Studies Standards include separate grade-level standards for only Grades K-5.  After Grade 5, standards are lumped together for Grades 6 – 8.  Standards should be specific for every grade level K-8. 

Standards should be appropriate for each grade level.  Could second-graders perform the following standard?

Geography – Grade 2

          Identify how you might apply geographic knowledge or techniques to solve a problem (e.g., use global positioning system (GPS) navigation for shortest route to school; map destinations for family vacation to determine the best order to visit).

Could a third-grade student perform this standard?

Geography – Grade 3

          Identify how geography impacts spatial problem solving (e.g., a new school must be near large numbers of students, on available land with suitable soils, have access to roads and utilities, and not overlap schools in other neighborhoods; plan where things would be built in a city).

ANSWERS – Students in second and third grade could not perform the above standards.

For all of the Social Studies Standards, grade levels 6-8 are listed together.  Teachers will not know what to cover in Grade 6, Grade 7, and Grade 8.  This is a typical example:

History – Grades 6-8

          (US) Examine the chronology of historical events in the United States analyze their impact on the past, present, and future.

6.  Measurable

How would this standard be measured?

History – Grade 3

          Examine sources on community history through determination of credibility, contextualization, and corroboration.

ANSWER – The above standard is not measurable.

Is this standard measurable?

Civics – Grades 6-8

          Evaluate how cooperation and conflict among people have contributed to political, economic, and social events and situations in the United States.

This standard is very vague.  Who determines the key national events?

History – Grades 6-8

          (US) Classify key national events in chronological order (e.g., timelines with eras and selected key events).


The Texas State Standards are found in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). 

The new Texas TEKS Social Studies Standards are included under:

Streamlined Social Studies TEKS Adopted by State Board of Education

The State Board of Education (SBOE) gave final approval on November 16, 2018, to the streamlined social studies TEKS for K-8 and five high school social studies courses.

Because I selected standards from the Texas TEKS that are for the same grade levels and subject areas as the Nebraska standards listed in this report, it is easy to compare the Nebraska and Texas standards. 

The following examples illustrate how the Texas Social Studies Standards satisfy the six parameters of strong Type #1 Standards:

1.  Explicit

These standards are very explicit:

History – Grade 3

          (C) describe how individuals, including Daniel Boone and the Founding Fathers have contributed to the expansion of existing communities or to the creation of new communities.

Geography – Grade 6

          (C) identify and locate major physical and human geographic features such as landforms, water bodies, and urban centers of various places and regions; and

          (D) identify the location of major world countries for each of the world regions.

History – High School

          (A) analyze and evaluate the text, intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights;

          (B) analyze and evaluate the application of these founding principles to historical events in U.S. history; and

          (C) explain the meaning and historical significance of the mottos “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust.”

2.  Knowledge-based…fact-based

The Texas TEKS standards are knowledge-based and fact-based.

History – Grade 5

          (B) identify the Founding Fathers and Patriot heroes, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, the Sons of Liberty, and George Washington, and their motivations and contributions during the revolutionary period; and

          (C) summarize the results of the American Revolution, including the establishment of the United States.

History – Grade 6

          (A) trace characteristics of various contemporary societies in regions that resulted from historical events or factors such as colonization, immigration, and trade; and

          (B) analyze the historical background of various contemporary societies to evaluate relationships between past conflicts and current conditions.

Strong Type #1 standards are knowledge-based/fact-based that grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next.  With a possible span of six grade levels, notice the growth required under these standards:

Citizenship – Grade 6

          (A) identify and explain the duty of civic participation in societies with representative governments; and

          (B) explain relationships among rights, responsibilities, and duties in societies with representative governments.

Citizenship – High School

          (A) discuss values crucial to America’s success as a constitutional republic, including liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire; and

          (B) describe how the American values are different and unique from those of other nations.

          (C) explain how participation in the democratic process reflects our national identity, patriotism, and civic responsibility.

3.  Academic

The Texas Standards are academic and well-written.  Good standards should emphasize academic skills and knowledge, not someone’s opinions or beliefs.

Economics – Grade 6

          (B) compare and contrast free enterprise, socialist, and communist economies in various contemporary societies, including the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system; and

          (C) understand the importance of ethics in maintaining a functional free enterprise system.

Economics – High School

          (A) explain the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system, including individual freedom of consumers and producers, variety of goods, responsive prices, investment opportunities, and the creation of wealth; and

          (B) analyze recent changes in the basic characteristics, including private property, incentives, economic freedom, competition, and the limited role of government, of the U.S. economy.

History – High School

          (A) identify the major eras in U.S. history from 1877 to the present and describe their defining characteristics; and

          (B) explain the significance of the following years as turning points: 1898 (Spanish American War), 1914-1918 (World War I), 1929 (the Great Depression begins), 1939- 1945 (World War II), 1957 (Sputnik launch ignites U.S.-Soviet space race), 1968 (Martin Luther King Jr. assassination), 1969 (U.S. lands on the moon), 1991 (Cold War ends), 2001 (terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and the Pentagon), and 2008 (election of first black president, Barack Obama).

4.  Clearly-worded

The Texas TEKS for Social Studies are clearly-worded and devoid of educational jargon.  Teachers, students, and parents should be able to easily understand the standards, without the need for a consultant to interpret the standards.

Geography – Grade 1

          (A) describe the location of self and objects relative to other locations in the classroom and school using spatial terms; and

          (B) locate places using the four cardinal directions.

Economics – High School

          (A) describe characteristics and give examples of pure competition, monopolistic competition, oligopoly, and monopoly; and

          (B) identify regulations that apply to the establishment and operation of various types of market structures.      

History – High School

          (E) compare and contrast the approach taken by the Black Panthers with the nonviolent approach of Martin Luther King Jr.;

          (F) discuss the impact of the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. such as his “I Have a Dream” speech and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on the civil rights movement.

5.  Grade-level specific

Texas has provided grade level-specific standards for all grades, K-8.  High School standards are often grouped by the particular course subjects; Texas has followed that plan.

Geography – Grade 2

          (A) identify and use information on maps and globes using basic map elements such as title, cardinal directions, and legend; and

          (B) create maps to show places and routes within the home, school, and community.

Geography – Grade 3

          (B) use a scale to determine the distance between places on maps and globes.

            (C) identify, create, and interpret maps of places that contain map elements, including a title, compass rose, legend, scale, and grid system.

History – Grade 6

          (A) identify and describe the historical influence of individuals or groups on various contemporary societies; and

          (B) describe the social, political, economic, and cultural contributions of individuals and groups from various societies, past and present.

6.  Measurable

The Texas TEKS Standards are measurable and the students can be tested on those standards with objective questions.  Subjective questions should be avoided whenever possible because the answers depend upon the opinions of the test writer.

History – Grade 3

          (A) identify reasons people have formed communities, including a need for security and laws, religious freedom, and material well-being;

          (B) identify individuals, including Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, Benjamin Banneker, and Benjamin Franklin, who have helped to shape communities.

Citizenship – Grade 6

          (A) identify and explain the duty of civic participation in societies with representative governments; and

          (B) explain relationships among rights, responsibilities, and duties in societies with representative governments.

History – Grade 8

          (A) explain the reasons for the growth of representative government and institutions during the colonial period;

          (B) analyze the importance of the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, and the Virginia House of Burgesses to the growth of representative government; and

          (C) describe how religion and virtue contributed to the growth of representative government in the American colonies.


Some general comments are offered on the Nebraska Social Studies Standards and the Texas TEKS Social Studies Standards.  Table 1 shows how the Nebraska standards are distributed through the grade levels.

Table 1.  Nebraska 2012 Social Studies Standards: Number of Standards

 GradeSubject Total
      K      10        2      14      12      38
      1      13        3      16      12      44
      2      16        6      17      13      52
      3      18        9      18      17      62
      4        3        9      18      18      48
      5        3        9      18      17      47
    6 -8        3      19      21      29      72
High School        4      47      31      39    121
    Totals      70    104    153    157    484

Within the Texas Social Studies Standards, the writers included the following subjects: History, Geography, Economics, Government, Citizenship, Culture, Science, and Social Studies Skills.  Nebraska included only four subjects: Civics, Economics, Geography, and History.  The broader scope of the Texas TEKS better prepares the Texas high school graduates to be well-informed citizens of this country.

The Texas Standards are distinctly Type #1 standards, while the Nebraska Standards are Type #2.


Why did I devote so much space in this report to the Texas Standards?  The answer is quite simple – Your state can utilize those Standards.

It took the Texas State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) many years to develop a tried-and-true process for writing, reviewing, revising, and adopting their own State Standards.  Texas has produced strong Type #1 Standards in all of the subject areas, and Social Studies is no exception. 

There is absolutely no reason for a State to develop its own standards, yet that approach has been taken in most cases. 

In 2013, we contacted the top officials at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) about using their standards in other states.  On 11.4.13, the TEA replied that their standards were developed with public monies and are not copyrighted.  They even said they could assist another state in developing their standards.  Again, the Texas TEKS are not copyrighted!

The Social Studies Writing Team should utilize the Texas TEKS as a guide.  In many cases, the Team could simply use the Texas standards as written.  It may sound trite to say, “Why reinvent the wheel?”

I strongly urge the States to follow the guidelines and recommendations in this report.  Thereby,

          Your State Could Have Strong Type #1 Social Studies Standards!


Bio for Henry W. Burke

Henry Burke is a Civil Engineer with a B.S.C.E. and M.S.C.E.  He has been a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) for 37 years and has worked as a Civil Engineer in construction for over 45 years. 

Mr. Burke had a successful 27-year career with a large construction company. 

Henry Burke has served as a full-time volunteer to oversee various construction projects. He has written numerous articles on education, engineering, construction, politics, taxes, and the economy.

Henry W. Burke


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1 Comment

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    Children today practice what they learn in school by cold-shouldering adults; they’re not interested in what we have to say. The are forced to memorize and regugitate abstract definitions all day long. They are not permitted to interact with useful words, which are the tools of human transactions. Tell the truth, Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you, keep your hands off other people; Listen to what your parents have to teach you. Pay attention and learn how to harmonize yourself with other people–NONE OF THIS IS COVERED. My 9yr old granddaughter told me, THE WAY TO DETERMINE WHICH ANIMAL IS MOST THREATENED is to vote in your class, and the one with the most votes is the one most in danger. If that wasn’t the ABSOLUTE STUPIDIST THOUGHT I EVER RECEIVED, I don’t know what is. These kids have no functional vocabulary of problem-solving words or Laws of Causes and Effects. They parrot terms they don’t understand. I am at the point where, as a retired teacher with a Masters, I advocate the take-down of the Dept of Education in its entirety, for stupidity; with USDA and FDA following on close behind. You people have stupefied our nation long enough.

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