What Do Mainland Students Learn about Puerto Rico?

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).

Puerto Rico’s “becoming a commonwealth” presumably refers to the adoption of the territorial constitution in 1952, an event which did not change the territorial position of Puerto Rico in any way.

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.

3 Comments

Luis Arroyo

Its no surprise DC misleads children to believe Puerto Rico is as pro independence as Cuba. In fact,Puerto Rico has NEVER had a pro independence majority.

But African Americans rule DC schools and the “Black” movement “leaders” be it civil rights or social justice leaders has long ago associated itself with the tiny but vocal PR independence movement.

Why won’t the congressional black caucus support statehood? Yet they go to Cuba and Venezuela via Mexico to attend “Latin American summits” calling for Puerto Rico self determination to exercise its “right to Independence”.

DC students AREN’T taught that 90% of Puerto Ricans desire permanent union with USA divided between Commonwealth and statehood. Only 2 to 4% support independence.

Nelson Lopez

This website preaches to the Choir. For it does not present as it is supposed unbiased information on the treatment of Puerto Ricans by the United States and Spain. Past, present or future. Every country, person, race, etc. deserves the right of Freedom, democracy, and equality…isn’t that what the United States professes? Ask Hawaii, The Philippines, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands how they were acquired and under what circumstances. Manifest destiny, anyone? You can’t ignore the past and forget everything that was done. You can forgive but not forget, educate your readers and let them decide. Here’s a lesson on reading texts: Look at the colors of this Webpage, this is not done at random… it is the colors of the Pro Statehood party. It even displays in its logo a subliminal message, it presents the U.S Flag over the Puerto Rican. Just as in Spain. Claiming what is not taught or is taught should begin with this Website. Where are the news on the other politicians point of view on the matter? “Governor-elect Alejandro García Padilla,said that the consult was “unfair” and that it didn’t offer clear results. He also said that “none of the options received most of the 50% within the emitted ballots.” Wilda Rodriguez, a freelance journalist and political analyst, said that the votes for the various “anti-statehood” alternatives cancelled each other out. She conducted a poll and found that 53.64% of the electorate do not support statehood. The analyst Néstor Duprey said that, although the premise that statehood won could be mathematically correct, the “blank ballots can’t be ignored because they are the product of a political intention” http://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/locales/nota/intensodebatesobretriunfodelaestadidad-1380677/

When you have 1 million plus people voting and you discount the invalid votes or let us call them abstentions, you cannot count them as pro statehood or even independent. Both cancel each other out. Robert Rules. Finally, all politicians say, the American people has spoken, or the people has spoken… well, only those that voted. And even the abstention voters spoke too. There are 8 million plus Puerto Ricans, if suddenly PR becomes a state the current Congress, the GOP will be very distressed to know that they have just chosen 8 million conservative to liberal democrats. Look who won Florida for Obama and the democratic party -it will happen again. Not a good deal for the GOP or congress. So the status will remain.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.