09/03/08 13:32 Categories: History
While my natural inclination is for local control as much as is feasible, nationalizing standards has some appealing arguments. For example, fourth graders throughout Missouri aren’t studying world history, American history, civics or other typical social studies topic. Nope, they’re taking a year to learn all there is to know about—Missouri. The state of Missouri. I’ll grant you we have some interesting history in the state. I even understand how they can acquire necessary skills such as reading maps, comparing and contrasting geographical regions etc. But, really? A whole year on Missouri?
If you live in another state, don’t start feeling superior because the children in your state are also studying it for a year most likely. If you’re lucky, they will revisit it in a later grade (here’s looking at you South Carolina!).
I think a unit or even two on the state is sufficient. I would even spiral that back around in later grades as students get closer to voting age. Heck, by then they might even still live in the state by the time they’re 18, so learning the names of their governor, state reps and state senators isn’t asking too much of a high schooler.
If families never moved, you could make the case for studying their own state in such depth, but that is not reality. With mobility rates of 15-20 percent, we can hardly justify spending an entire year on a single state.
Some may make the case that kids start out learning about their family, their neighborhood, then their community, and work their way up to their state, country and finally the world. How boring is that! Besides, kids have an easier time understanding other countries than state or county divisions, so learning is not quite so linear as that.
I suggest choosing high-interest topics such as ancient Egypt, pre-Columbian Maya or medieval Europe to introduce historical methods and skills. You could certainly include some Missouri-related units such as Lewis & Clark. I would then emphasize the state history within context of U.S. history as kids develop a sense of time flow in later elementary. That would seem to make more sense.
I think lack of world knowledge is a bigger problem overall than lack of state knowledge, so I can’t see how reducing time spent studying the state will harm our country’s ability to compete in the global economy.