Our History classes should be reformed

By Trevor Andrews, Reporter

         A common reason given for why people should learn history is to stop people from repeating past mistakes. Except if that’s the reason why history is taught, then our school system is keeping students deeply ignorant. 

History wall at Senior High.

         I believe that one of the main issues with how our school system teaches history is that it’s too centered on American history. I believe that our school system is failing to give a quality education for anything other than American history. For this reason it’s important to reform how history is taught in our schools. 

         I think that dropping American History in freshman year and instead replacing it with another World History class would be beneficial for students. This way we would have two World History classes. This may sound controversial but I believe it isn’t as consequential as it may sound. The majority of elementary and middle school we are taught American history except for a few exceptions. I believe that our current World History class suffers from being too Euro-centric, and misses out on many events. 

         With my idea students would learn about the Middle Ages in World History I, and they would move onto the modern era in World History II. 

         World History during freshman year would begin with a quick summary of the Roman Empire. The main points that would need to be discussed are the spread of Christianity, the split between the Western and Eastern Roman Empire, Roman architecture, Roman armies, and the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

         After this students should begin learning about the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages began after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Students would need to learn how the fall of the Western Roman Empire affected history as a whole. One of the first things students should learn about is the Merovingian dynasty, and the Franks. The Franks were a Germanic people who migrated from the modern day Benelux region and eastern Germany to modern-day France. The Franks have had a massive impact on Europe, as they introduced the feudal system into Europe; they’ve also had a major role in the creation of France and French culture. The history of the Franks should be taught up until about the year 718, as the year 718 was when Charles Martel came to rule over the Franks. Charles Martel is known for defeating the Umayyads in the Battle of Tours. The Umayyads are important to learn about. The Umayyads were the second largest empire seen up to that point only below the Roman Empire. They held territories from Iberia and North Africa to modern day Saudi Arabia and Iran. 

         After we touch on the history of the Franks, we would then switch to Islamic history. 

         Since our World History class is centered around European history, I believe it’s important to learn the history of other cultures that aren’t necessarily European. Islamic history has a large connection to European history. This way students can learn a wider variety of history, while still making connections to the European history they previously learned. Making connections and learning how certain events caused another event to happen is important when learning about history. For example, the harsh punishment Germany received from the Versailles treaty after WWI led to Hitler rising to power and WW2. 

         When students begin learning about Islamic history they’ll begin by learning about Prophet Muhammad. The most important subjects to learn about in Islamic history are the Rashidun Caliphate, the First Fitna, and the Umayyad Caliphate. 

         Once students have finished learning about Islamic history and made that connection between Islamic and European history, they will transition into learning about Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire. 

         World History I could then transition back to Islamic History where students would learn a short summary of the Abbasid Caliphate and the Seljuk Empire. The Seljuk invasion of Anatolia should be taught, as the Seljuk Invasion of Anatolia set up a domino effect that ultimately led to the discovery of the Americas. 

         Students would then pause from learning about Islamic History and then move on to the Mongol Empire. While the Mongol Empire is a part of East Asian history, it makes strong connections with Islamic and European history. Students could then move onto three last subjects. The first would be the Renaissance. The second subject would be the Ottoman Siege of Constantinople, which marked the end of the Roman Empire, and led to Christopher Columbus trying to find an alternative route to India. The last subject would be about the colonization of the Americas. 

         Having students learn about those parts of history would allow for students’ knowledge to be a lot more diverse. While some may argue that European history is the most prevalent history that affects us today, other parts of history still have massive effects on us. If we center our attention on only one area of history many people’s stories are left out. 

         Moving on to World History II, students would learn about mostly the same things as in our current World History for sophomore year. With the units on the Renaissance and the colonization of the Americas being transitioned to freshman year, it would hopefully allow for the Napoleonic Wars to be added into our World History II class.

         While we learned about the French Revolution, we skipped over the Napoleonic Wars. The Napoleonic Wars were strange to skip over as the French Revolution caused France to become increasingly unstable, and that led to Napoleon overthrowing the French government.  

         Because it’s impossible to give students a good understanding of history in only one class, it’s important to teach history in a fun and interesting way. Those who are interested in history will likely begin to learn on their own. This interest in history will cause students to fill in blank areas of knowledge that school was never able to teach them. 

         When the colonization of Africa unit is being discussed, it’s important that it isn’t being taught from a Euro-centric point of view. Often Africa is seen as a blank canvas that European nations drew borders on. If students are taught about the various kingdoms across Africa, it could help students better understand Africa before colonization. The people of Africa weren’t just tribes.  

         One of my biggest issues with World History class is that I believe it didn’t give a proper education of the Cold War. The Cold War unit failed to highlight the fight for influence between the U.S and the Soviet Union. The main problem with the Cold War Unit is that it was from the American perspective. This American perspective leaves out many important events like the American backed coups in Latin America, 1953 Iranian coup d´état, and the Indonesian mass killings of 1965-1966.  We are taught that the Cold War was a fight between capitalist democracies and socialist dictatorships. In reality it was only a fight between the two economic ideologies of capitalism and socialism. Dictatorships were a tool used by the USSR and the US to strengthen their grip on influence, and autocracy isn’t a trait of socialism or capitalism. While the world perspective may contradict the American perspective of fighting for the world’s freedom against socialist dictatorships, it’s greatly important that students learn about the Cold War from a world perspective. Again, one of the most common reasons given for why people should learn history is that knowledge of history stops us from repeating the past. If this statement is really true then Americans can’t stay ignorant about the Cold War and history as a whole. 

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