June 27, 2013

The Texas legislature recently passed a bill that changes the requirements for high school graduation. The bill reduces the amount of Social Studies credits that students must earn and makes the study of World History optional. I find it appalling and irresponsible that the students of Texas will no longer be required to study World History given that the United States is itself more multicultural and more interconnected within a larger global community than ever before. World History examines history from a global perspective, which is both necessary and relevant in the 21st century.

As we celebrate July 4th we should recognize that many of the ideas and values that make our country great have roots elsewhere and quickly spread beyond our shores. The individuals in Philadelphia who debated the issue of independence from Great Britain were well read in European political philosophy and shared many Judeo-Christian values. The principles of government declared in 1776 have spread throughout the world and the history of the United States has taken place within a larger global context that students should understand, analyze, and appreciate.

Does our legislature not think that students should learn about ancient Athens, the birthplace of democracy, or the rise and fall of the Roman Empire? What about the growth of the Catholic Church throughout the Middle Ages and the Protestant Reformation that followed the Renaissance? Of course, students will still learn about the American Revolution in their U.S. History class, but shouldn’t they also learn about the revolutions that were inspired by American independence? What about the French Revolution? The independence movements in Latin America? The spread of democracy to Africa and Asia?

The Texas legislature must think that the United States is the center of the universe to allow the students of Texas to be ignorant of humanity’s larger story. What’s next? Replacing U.S. History with Texas History? There is an entire world out there and a good education should cultivate knowledge and appreciation of the global community within which we live. Federalism may give the state of Texas the authority to render the study of World History an option, but parents can trump states’ rights by exercising local, independent judgment to encourage their kids to enroll in World History regardless. Personally, I question the future being envisioned by those who consider knowledge of World History optional.

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