Changing The History Of History
Our own experiences makeup our personal history: how we act, how we think, what we say, what we do, and what we have been through. We reflect on it; we learn from it. The same is true for our national history and our global history. Who we are as a body of people is defined by who we were. How can we know who we were if we do not study it?
High schools hardly require their students to study History, yet in or right after high school, students are expected to be educated voters. Most high schools require one semester of civics and one full year of American History. Civics covers the bill-making process, the general beliefs of the left and right sides of the political spectrum, and the current controversial issues. American History goes from the American Revolution usually until WWII. It purely focuses on the American people. These two requirements neglect the rest of the globe, which shaped the American people to act the way they did. It is impossible to isolate America from the rest of global history. Even if the only interactions between nations were ideas, they are powerful enough to change the course of events. Requiring students to only learn these two subjects sends the message that American History is the most important and therefore all students need to learn.
But American History is shaped by world history. To fully understand how America came to be, and how American ideals developed, we must first understand the major global events. To do this, students need to understand general European History, American History, politics, civics, and current events.
A full year of European History, from around the time of the black death into WW1, would help students to understand the major intellectual, religious, and political movements that were powerful enough to shape our world now. The Scientific Revolution and all the factors leading up to it set the path for major social and political changes. These changes would be lasting and play a huge role in WWI. The European movements shaped America, and many British ideals were adapted into the American politics, right after America gained its independence.
Students should then take a full year of American History. This is crucial to understanding our current nation and its social, political, and economic divides. There should be special emphasis on the Civil War. The civil war and its misconceptions are taught all around the U.S., if it taught with more accuracy, then there will be less United States negative stereotypes between regions. Our nation is still divided by the effects of the Civil War. Focusing on it would clear the false accusations of the war and unite the country. American History also explains how the nation developed its deals and politics, which is crucial for the voting population.
A half of a year would then be dedicated just to American Politics, and the other half for Civics. Every American citizen is able to participate in American Politics. We cannot expect Americans to form informational opinions without providing them the means to do so. News outlets are biased, whether it be intentional or not, which leads Americans to adapt the opinions of others rather than forming their own. Textbooks will have little-to-no bias, making schools the best places to learn about politics in an unbiased manner. When covering politics, the corruption of our politicians should be covered. If students are not informed of the extent of the corruption, they would never know, and politics would never become honest. Teaching politics means engaging students in politics. More students would the choose to study politics when furthering their education. The more students studying politics, the greater the amount of new ideas, and they faster America’s problems will be solved. Civics is equally important because it shows the complexity of the American Government. Students should understand the judicial, legislative, and executive branches and how they work. It is important to discuss how bills are proposed and passed. When a student has a bill they want to see Congress respond to,they need to know what to expect when it gets there.
In students’ final years of high school, they need to take current events. High school students are too busy to watch the news, but understanding our surroundings is a crucial part to becoming a productive member of society. It is important for students to leave high school with an understanding of what is going on, outside of their bubble. Well-informed students can learn about the issues our globe faces, and they can use their vote for something important. Exposing high school students to our planet’s problems will help them to get involved in society. It is the perfect transitional course for students to enter American society.
Keeping students in ignorance does more harm than good. Many argue that learning how to become an active citizen is something that happens during and after college, so students should focus on getting into college. Students often go to college with no idea of what they want to do with their future. While increasing the amount of social science classes they take will not eliminate this problem, it will broaden their horizons, so they have a better idea of what they can study. It also exposes them to real problems that they will find necessary to act upon. Many high school students choose not to go to college. Those students would have no way to figure out their place in society. These students, too, need to be prepared to be responsible voters. Exposing high school students to issues sooner shows them what they can do to make a difference. It allows millennials to feel involved in the American community, which is an issue for most millennials. The future of the nation should feel educated and involved.
If a polarized nation is what we aim for, then we doing a great job. When students are unable to form their own opinions, they adapt them from those around them (parents, teachers, other students, etc.). They trust these people and their morals, so they also trust their political opinions. Thus, Americans link political views with morality. There is then a deep, emotional divide between Americans of opposing views. When politics remain intellectual, one is able to respectfully disagree while understanding where the other opinion came from. Understanding one another as Americans is the way to unite a divided nation.
If we seek a united nation, a nation full of problem-solvers, and an informed voting population, then we need to emphasize history in our high schools. If we cannot provide the American people with the information they need to form educated opinions for voting, then their right to vote is useless.