Thinking about history curricula

7/26/2023 2:31 pm |

I saw a TikTok video about a guy ranting about America's history education, discussing the notable oversights and political framings which come with the nationalist viewings of history. That set me thinking about how to improve history education, ignoring the fact that the simple realities of history (even/especially recent history) are impossible for some people to agree upon.

I think history is the topic in school which is most hurt by a non-nationalized curriculum structure. Consider math. Math has a pretty clear progression in terms of education. Similar for language. Elementary school provides fundamentals. Middle school builds on those. High school begins offering specialization paths.

But for History, it isn't as simple. Sure, you need some fundamentals to understand things which come after them, but you can't progress in the same linear way, which is rather ironic now that I think about it. It felt for me like history was a lot of retreading the same topics year after year as you progress from one school to the next. Sure, some of it was retreading topics to go deeper on them, but not always. And looking back as I've continued to learn more over my life, there is a hell of a lot more which seems like it should be included as part of core history curricula.

I envision a structure where it iterates over era and sections in an organized way where school years properly build on past years. Not entirely linearly as I think some of the pre-history stuff, while interesting to kids (yay dinosaurs!) also merits investigation and discussions when they are older. But also for things like current events and recent history too, discussing race and the issues there, etc.

I think there would still be retreading of topics, but I think it could be slimmed down and it would ensure students learn new and more than what they currently do.

Standard "I don't really know what I'm talking about" disclaimer: I am not a teacher, and perhaps there is more structure in place for teaching history than I'm aware of. I am speaking only from my recollections and observations from others. Neither of which should be considered as making me an expert on this topic.