Don’t know much world history

The State of State World History Standards is lousy, says a new Fordham Foundation report by historian Walter Russell Mead. As Education Gadfly explains, there’s too much to cover.

“Decisions,” Mead writes in his introduction, “must be made.”

Regrettably, most states made poor decisions.

Students aren’t asked to know anything about history; they skip immediately to the big — very big — questions, which can’t be answered without knowledge.

Alaska, for example, asks its students to understand “the forces of change and continuity that shape human history.” How are they supposed to do this? By examining the “major developments in societies, as well as changing patterns related to class, ethnicity, race, and gender.” One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

. . . Michigan, for one, asks students to “identify major decisions in the history of Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe and Latin America, ana­lyze contemporary factors contributing to the decisions and consider alternate courses of action.” Which deci­sions? Analyzed how? What, exactly, is expected?

Latin America is slighted, even in some states with large Hispanic populations.

Eight states earned A grades: California, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia. Geography also was a bright spot.

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  1. Kind of like asking structural engineering students to critique the design of a sophisticated structure, without bothering to first teach them the elements of strength of materials…

  2. If it is world history, then it should cover world history. If Latin America is under covered, then there should be more material about it, regardless of the size of the Hispanic populations. Otherwise you would learn a lot about Latin America, or Africa, or Germany, or Ireland depending on which state you are educated in. That is no longer world history.