The West Virginia Department of Education is backing away from a proposal that would allow public schools to reduce the number of history courses students are required to take. That’s good.
Late last year, the state Board of Education issued a public notice of a proposed change to state curriculum standards. The change would have reduced the number of social studies credits required to graduate from four to three. That would have meant a student could have gone one year or more in high school without a social studies class.
On Tuesday, the education department issued a news release saying state Superintendent Steven Paine will recommend that the state board not implement that specific change.
“(T)his review has brought a vigorous response from the public and, most importantly, our educators,” the release stated. “The majority of these comments are centered around proposed changes to the social studies credits. This level of response is a reflection of the importance of this issue. Due to this overwhelming response, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine plans to recommend to the West Virginia Board of Education to keep the number of social studies credits for graduation at four.”
Board President Dave Perry told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that he “absolutely” agrees with Paine regarding the social studies requirement.
This is the second time in three years that reducing the social studies requirement has been considered and rejected.
“I would hope it’s a dead issue at this point,” Perry told the Gazette-Mail.
The backtracking on the proposed change by state officials came before the public comment period had ended. The public spoke, and the government listened. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Any student who has passed a basic civics class can tell you that.
There has always been a need for voters to understand the basics of American history — the who, what, when, where and why of this nation’s origin and how it became the nation it is today. World history is important, too, of course. The Information Age should have made this much easier, but instead it had made knowledge of American history much more difficult.
There is so much misinformation and disinformation on the internet today that young people without a grounding in history, geography and civics can easily be misled by people with an agenda. And yes, Boomer, older people who have forgotten much of what they were taught decades ago can be misled, too.
The Misinformation Age is upon us. It’s easy to believe what isn’t true, and discerning truth from error or deception is as important as ever. Perry is right; let’s bury this idea that social studies aren’t that important. We need more history and other social studies in school, not less.
Schools also need more courses devoted to math (which would include personal finance) and reading skills. How that could be worked into a school day that already has so many demands on teachers’ and students’ time is a puzzle that would require tradeoffs and nontraditional thinking, but it needs to be done.