History Classes Need a Broader Focus in the US

World history needs more emphasis in American high schools

Mia Snow, Staff Writer

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As a student, I firmly believe that history classes are fundamentally some of the most beneficial and useful courses. The educational skills developed in history classes are starkly different from other classes, and the style of teaching has become more relevant every year. It makes sense that homework in history classes far outweighs those of other classes because there’s so much we have to comprehend to succeed.

Why is it then, with this abundance of information we’re given every day, that American history students still seem to fail standardized exams? 25% of American college students who took in the AP exam got a 1 out of 5 in 2018, according to College Board statistics. Are these results due to teachers? Teaching methods? Maybe it’s something else entirely. If it were up to me, I would change the system almost entirely.

I need to preface this by stating that I do believe American history is valuable. As an American, I understand that it is our civic duty to have an understanding of our past. However, I believe that American school systems tend to neglect world history, and intentionally put emphasis on American history.

Throughout my time in high school, I observed that classes spent the same amount of time, for example, on the French Revolution and one of Alexander Hamilton’s financial plans. I’m not denying that Alexander Hamilton was an important figure in our country’s history, but the French Revolution was an entire event. More depth regarding the French Revolution was necessary because I only took away a very general understanding. I am in no way attacking the teaching behind both subjects; both were taught with accuracy and care.

American high schools generally don’t dedicate time to studying historical events outside of our country. SHS history department chair Steve Swett pointed out that the state chooses the history curriculum, and individual high schools decide how to divide it up. Scituate High School chose two years of US history and only one year of world history, which is understandable because two-thirds of our country choose this form of division.

But why? Why is America the only country that focuses so much on its own history–at the expense of the rest of the world’s history? SHS history teacher Kristen Emerson puts it better than I could: “Patriotism is built around American exceptionalism. It is important to know about our own history, but it should be put into context with the rest of the world.”

In my opinion, American school systems have been so focused on painting the “ideal picture” of America, that we’re losing our sense on what’s important: we need to focus more on world history and world values. Students are failing US history exams because they are being tested on the wrong things, and something needs to be changed.

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History Classes Need a Broader Focus in the US