I feel a bit like the Founding Fathers at the 1787 Constitutional Convention might have felt. They showed up in Philadelphia with the stated intent of tweaking the Articles of Confederation. Instead, they ditched the Articles and went straight to the Constitution.

Today was the first meeting of the Kansas State History/Government Standards Revision Committee. The stated intent? Tweak the current state standards.

And while we don’t have James Madison or Benjamin Franklin, the committee truly is a collection of Kansas Social Studies studs. Michael Ortman, Brian Richter, Nathan McAlister, Anneliece Kowalik are just a few of the incredibly talented educators in the room.

What happened when the committee got together? They basically pushed the current document aside and went straight to the 21st century standards equivalent of the Constitution – standards that will drive quality instruction and quality assessment. And there was lots of great conversation today that revolved around what the standards document should contain and how it should look.

One of the first decisions made by the group was to organize the new standards around Big Ideas and Essential Questions. Of course, we then had to write the Big Ideas. I’ve pasted our first draft below.

If you were creating a K-12 social studies standards document that will integrate history, geography, government and economics, what additions and subtractions would you make?

Big Ideas

  • Choices have consequences
  • Individuals have rights and responsibilities within societies
  • Diversity and commonality shape and enrich societies
  • Beliefs and ideas shape people’s thinking and actions
  • Competition for resources and power creates conflict and cooperation
  • Societies progress and decline
  • People are interdependent
  • Societies have similarities and differences that change over time
  • The relationship between people, places and environment is dynamic
  • Multiple causations and perspectives exist


Update September 27

Big Ideas second draft

  • Choices have consequences.
  • Individuals have rights and responsibilities.
  • Society is shaped by beliefs, ideas and diversity.
  • Societies experience continuity and change over time.
  • The relationships among people, places and environment are dynamic.
  • Thinking and literacy skills are essential to active 21st century citizenship.


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