I went looking for a different kind of standard. We have the Common Core State Standards, which cover mathematics and language arts. We also have the Next Generation Science Standards, already adopted by six states. But what about history standards? (And the arts? And civics? And common sense?) What I found was the National Center for History in the Schools’ National Standards for History from 1996 and the National Council for Social Studies’ national curriculum, updated in 2010.
In this humble writer’s opinion, it is important that students have a decent knowledge of history, as well as a basic ability to understand the consequences of historic events on contemporary issues. For example, it’s important to understand how the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France after World War I, in conjunction with Great Britain’s Balfour Declaration, effectively set in motion 100 years of turmoil in the Middle East that the United States still finds itself embroiled in today. It’s okay if you don’t know Sykes, Picot, or Balfour. Or the exact dates. But if I mention that these agreements carved up the Middle East between France, Great Britain, and a few Arabian princes and sultans, then you’d understand their significance. History is more than just names and dates; it is also the whys and hows of our present day.
But there are no nationally-agreed-upon history standards. Sometime in the future, there may be. For now, I would simply urge teachers to do everything within their power to deliver the strongest foundation possible for our nation’s next generation of great leaders. Whether you’re thinking of students who will be great scientists, wonderful advertising executives, brilliant engineers, or decent biologists, they’ll each need to know some history, how it impacts their daily lives, and what they can do on their own to make sure it doesn’t repeat itself.
What do you think?