Textbooks still do a meager job of presenting the history of Puerto Rico and of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S. Do U.S. standards require teachers to compensate for this lack in classroom discussions?
Common Core standards list Puerto Rico in Social Studies standards several times:
- Basic U.S. geography, including 50 states and the U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico
- Trade and Slavery, including sugar plantations in Puerto Rico
- Grade 7 U.S. History:
The Spanish-American War
Cuban War for Independence, José Martí
Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders
Spain gives the U.S. Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines
In comparison, California and New York warrant 15 mentions apiece — but most states are mentioned once (Arkansas), twice (Georgia), three times (Rhode Island), or not at all (Vermont, Ohio, and many more).
U.S. states have their own standards, and discussions of Puerto Rico are specifically included in 15 state standards listed in the National History Education Clearing House. For example, 7th graders in Arizona are supposed to discuss this question:
SS07-S2C7- Performance Objective / Proficiency Level: Describe the impact of American interests in the following areas during the late 19th century and the early 20th century
a) Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Spanish American War; b) China and the Boxer Rebellion; c) Colombia and the building of the Panama Canal; d) Hawaiian annexation.
Fourth graders in Kansas and Massachusetts are expected to be able to find Puerto Rico on a map. Michigan requires students to find Puerto Rico and the other territories gained in the Spanish-American War on a map each year in secondary school.
South Dakota has a listing for Puerto Rico that could be considered misleading:
7.C.1.2. Standard: (Comprehension) Students are able to identify historical events that impacted individual governments (Examples: Quebec’s attempt at secession, fall of Berlin Wall, Puerto Rico becoming a commonwealth).
Texas wants students to look further:
Evaluate American expansionism, including acquisitions such as Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico;
This is a U.S. history option for each year of High School in the Lone Star State.
Washington D.C.’s 5th grade guidelines emphasize examples of social justice movements, and also include this option:
José Martí, Francisco Gonzalo (Pachín) Marín, and Sotero Figueroa and the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spain.
Students therefore learn about Puerto Rico’s independence from Spain but not necessarily delve into Puerto Rico’s territorial status and lack of voting representation in Congress, a condition Puerto Rico and D.C. share. In 10th grade, though, D.C. teachers ask students to think about colonies, and one of the examples to consider is this:
Explain the military interventions of the United States in Central America and the Caribbean, the subsequent occupation of some of the territories, and local resistance to growing U.S. influence, as evidenced in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Nicaragua.
In 11th grade, D. C. students might consider this question:
Describe responses, particularly from the African American community, to the U.S. partition of Africa, the Cuban-Spanish-American War, annexation of Philippines, Hawaii, occupation of Haiti and Puerto Rico.
Only a handful of states and Washington D.C. actually require or even strongly suggest that Puerto Rico be included in history instruction. In fact, apart from basic geography, only three states and D.C. include Puerto Rico’s history, and none requires any understanding of 21st century realities in Puerto Rico.
In the past 30 days, Puerto Rico Report has been visited by 133 school districts, 51 .edu networks including the Departments of Education of states from Hawaii to Georgia, and 387 colleges and universities. It is our hope that Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S. will begin to receive greater exposure among nationwide educational standards and gain a higher level of understanding among educators and students.