Where is World Education in The American Curriculum?

The subject Social Studies is often overlooked and typically overshadowed by subject areas that are tested on federal and state exams. Within these Social Studies classes are opportunities for students to incorporate critical thinking and learn about the basis of life in not only their own culture, but cultures that are far from their own. However, even when these classes such as world history are taught, the curriculum isn’t there to support outside cultures nor are teachers actually prepared to teach such material.

World history as it stands today is mostly considered European history. A statistic has shown that roughly 60% of the curriculum of world history textbooks is related to Europe alone. This leaves about 40% devoted to Asia, Africa, and South America (as Australia is often linked into European history, although it is not often stressed). Even when these other countries are mentioned or are taught, they are often linked to Europe. For example, students who learn about Africa often learn of Egypt (who came in contact with Europeans) and the Triangular Trade (which is more European history than African).

This idea that world history is primarily European is subject to opinion, but to me world history is more than learning about European interactions. The world history curriculum needs to identify with cultures OUTSIDE the European circle. For example, why not learn about different cultures in Togo and how they have developed. The informational perspective is not so important, however students would be able to grasp a culture outside their own and realize that the world around them isn’t solely a European cultured world.

It is often I find world history teachers that only teach about Europe primarily because a) they’re training isn’t specialized in the field and b) the curriculum goals are set to primarily feature Europe.

Why should this happen? Are we left leaving an impression to the children that Europe is the feature of the world? Does this in turn promote white supremacy in that the European whites are essentially the only people worth learning about?

This is a difficult subject to understand as not a lot of literature and articles have been written about such a touchy subject.

What are you’re thoughts?

13 thoughts on “Where is World Education in The American Curriculum?

  1. Chris, This is the best I have read so far on the topic of cultures and missed opportunities in schools to use social studies and also language arts to learn about other cultures and to discuss relevant social problems afflicting them. It can also be an opportunity to show how we are all connected. Oh I have so many thoughts aout post. But I would like to reblog just as.

    Fantastic observations…

  2. And our schools also tend to ignore current events and avoid any discussions about them for being too controversial when they should really be the focus of all of our conversations.

  3. Unfortunately, it is hit or miss. Our students learn about only their state in elementary school and not about the United States as a whole. When we moved from Maine to Virginia a student asked my daughter what language she spoke in Maine. We had said we were from New England. Once out children learn about the US then we need to move outward. Students can name the continents. Students can talk about Ancient China, Egypt, Rome, Greece, but cannot talk about Canada and Mexico. They cannot relate to their own continent. We talk about globalism but students are not prepared to move outside their own state by the end of fifth grade. We need a reworking of what we are teaching and how we are teaching geography and the social sciences.

      • Same with Puerto Rico. A friend told me when she was applying to college the admissions clerk kept telling her she needed to apply as a foreign student. She had no clue about Puerto Rico’s standing with the US.

    • They don’t know much about Native Americans or African-Americans ( I prefer people of color) either. But how much will they truly remember unless students connect with topic? There are so many ways to frame things. I think we need to redefine education because it means different things to different people. Let’s start with a common definition. I no longer accept the relevance of what is actually taught in public schools, particularly, high schools.

      • I agree. Students have no idea as to why they are learning what they are learning. I try to make it “cool” when I present other cultures but my school has only one. They do not really understand ‘multicultural’ as they have one and are not exposed to anything else. I was told by two students that 1. Jews are bad because they do not celebrate christmas and 2. All white people hate black people. It is very difficult to point out to them that as a ‘genetic’ Jew who does not observe christmas I am not “bad” and as a white person I do not “hate” anyone. They have zero concept of anything outside of their realm and it is difficult to integrate new ideas and information about the people in their own state when the teaching staff come from the same closed society as the children. The relevance, unfortunately, is decided by the state standards committees and not by classroom teachers. We understand what needs to be taught but are being help to “higher” standards by the state and must teach what we are told. Our jobs depend upon it. Sad situation we are all in.

  4. As a retired US educator, I ask “where is education?” Listening to people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Michell Backmann and seeing the following these people have leaves me convinced there is no real education in the USA anymore.

  5. I COMPLETELY agree! SS is lacking in US schools. Actually, it’s a lot of useless dribble. My kids are learning about everything BUT here! But….don’t get me started, I could go on for hours about the bs in the public schools. For instance, they teach algebra etc….but not debt, credit cards, college and home loans etc….. Now I have a 20 yr old college student, in debt up to her A$$ thanks to credit cards, finance charges and school loans! Way to Go Public School System! My kid can do trig and calc, but can’t pay a bill!

  6. Teaching in an international school I am confronted with this problem daily. Yes I’m in Europe, but I have many students from Asia and we spend next to no time on Asian content. But there really isn’t the time either. I see my students 3 times a week for one hour. In the states we have even less time for social studies, especially in the younger age groups. Teachers are working overtime trying to get students’ reading and math scores up. Social Studies gets pushed in the background in the hopes that they will get history later. Middle Schools dish out one semester a year to history or geography. And by High School it is almost too late. They have to have US History, Civics, and State history….no room for other worldliness.

  7. Hi Chris, I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Congratulations, you have an exceptional blog. I plan to reblog my favoritie post from your blog in next couple of weeks. Please visit my blog for more information. And Congratulations again!

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