MEMPHIS, Tenn. —Gov. Bill Lee announced plans to change civics curricula in Tennessee schools, teaching what he called “unapologetic American exceptionalism” along with it.
“In this state our children will be taught civics education, character formation and unapologetic American exceptionalism,” Lee declared in his State of West Tennessee speech at the University of Memphis last week.
“It’s remembering the reasons why America is leader of the world, understanding how our government was created and why democracy is the best system in the world,” he said after the speech.
Lee said those lessons, generalized as civics education, are currently missing from schools and he wants to change that.
But parents like Sharonda Walker had questions about the idea.
“Exceptionalism is a very strong term. It almost sounds elitist,” she said. “So we have to be careful as a country.”
The mom of six says there are issues both in the past and present that she hopes any new curriculum would still acknowledge.
“I had such a distorted view of history,” Walker said. “It wasn’t until I went to college that I started embracing history, that included people like myself. I thought, ‘Wow how did I miss all this?’ According to results in math, reading, writing, the education system and even kids going into technology, we’re not there yet.”
Rep. London Lamar (D- District 91) was at the governor’s speech. She understands the skepticism of people like Walker and said she hoped any new lessons would include African-American history.
“I want to have a conversation with the governor about what this particular curriculum looks like,” she said.
For Lee, the end goal is clear.
“We can’t expect future generations to build on the incredible progress this country’s made if we fail to teach them the history and the values that made it possible.”
Lee said his team is still working on a way to evaluate students’ civics knowledge after the new curriculum goes in place.
WREG contacted the governor’s office to clarify which parts of African-American history he planned to include in the curriculum. We’re still waiting to hear back.
WREG also asked Shelby County School officials what they thought of the governor’s proposed new curriculum but we have not heard back.