Racism in U.S. social studies education: Invisible while on full display

Published: 11-06-2020| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/78jsjhcwxy.2
Patricia McClure


This study's use of decolonized critique of Western history helps identify the invisible white Euro-American culture embedded in the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, the Texas Social Studies Essential Knowledge and Skills Standards, and the New Mexico Social Studies Content Standards. The matrix developed for this study identifies intersectionality between the five tenets of Critical Race Theory and Bonilla-Silva's (2018) Four Frames of Colorblindness as a way to expose colorblind language in state-approved social studies content standards. Data was collected from the content standards for the 5th grade and 8th grade from both states and analyzed. The number of NM benchmarks within a strand varies, as does the list of content standards within each benchmark. There are 176 social studies standards for grades 5 through 8. Texas 5th grade standards have 106 content standards, while 8th grade has 125 standards. The author compared articles continuously by using MaxQDA, a qualitative data analysis software, and a computer-assisted coding system using categories created from the theoretical framework. Two of the three phases recommended by Corbin & Strauss (2015) were employed. First, selective coding was employed to capture data within content standards that related to any of the decolonizing CRT matrix variables or contained the variables for capitalism, individualism, or race literacy. Then axial coding was employed to determine connections or relationships between the variables. Using Lincoln and Guba's (1983) stringent criteria, the author determined whether a unit of information revealed information relevant to the study, and if the information is interpretable in the absence of supporting evidence. In addition to the decolonized variables in the CRT matrix, the other code words used for this study include race literate content standards, capitalism/free market, colonization references, economics, religion, and individualism. Ultimately, the 231 Texas social studies standards received 422 codes, while the 113 New Mexico standards received 264. The general picture emerging from the analysis is that nonracial language is detectable as racist language. As in previous studies, the results of this analysis confirm that subtle forms of racism are detectable through the application of Critical Race Theory and the four frames of colorblind racism using decolonizing methods. The findings provide strong evidence of race-proof narratives in both Texas and New Mexico content standards. Additional evidence of nonracial racism is detectable in the higher usage of certain words over others. The higher usage of words like 'religion,' 'individuals,' and 'Capitalism' over words like 'slavery,' 'indigenous' and 'African American' indicate the interest of specific topics over others. Finally, the Texas content standards provide convincing evidence of a link between examples of interest convergence and topics on capitalism.