In most American schools, the most important subjects are always the ones that receive testing on the graduation tests and college entrance exams. We suffer through 4 years of math, at least 3 years of science, and 4 years of English/literature/writing. History and geography are always the odd children left out. While American schools try to promote careers in science and mathematics, and we continue to move in the technology career paths…what are we to do in the global world if we aren’t up to snuff in history and geography as well?
I was fortunate that I was able to receive four years of history and geography, and it happens to be my expertise (in terms of core curriculum). However, some schools will gloss over history and offer no geography. What has that left us with? That’s left us with this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJuNgBkloFE What is that, you may ask? That is a portion of the general public (I just can’t believe that they could find that many people in one sitting) that is lost to where France, Iran, Australia, and North Korea are located. I could probably excuse Iran, but Australia!!? The continents are an elementary school concept, and as we grow through our curriculum, we see an increasing lack of being able to place the United States correctly.
It’s easy to write it off as an anomaly or that I’m overreacting, but in my high school, I watched on the first days of both World History (freshman year) and Advanced Placement European History (junior year) as people put the United Kingdom where France was, France in Spain, and put Germany in Russia. Italy was lost in the ocean somewhere, and Greece had no hope of being placed. And, thank goodness, this was only on a map of Europe. Because when we moved to the United States and the Americas, it was far worse. The USA ended up in Canada, Mexico in South America, and somehow, Argentina was the entire Pacific Ocean.
In a globally-oriented world, it’s important to understand WHERE your jobs have gone. Or, quite frankly, where you want the jobs to stay. Don’t point to Europe or to the ocean when referring to America. And, for goodness sake, the United States is not where Russia is because “we’re the biggest and most important nation in the world”. Yes, we have great importance, but as seen with this European debt crisis affecting U.S. stock indices, we are all just as important as the next country. No, we are not located in Russia. We wonder why we’re viewed as ignorant and stupid sometimes, but then we can’t commit ourselves to encouraging our children to know where the important players in the world are located in the world. It’s important to know where these are, not just for the pure sake of knowing where we’re going, but for historical context.
America’s battles in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken place on two continents and 4 regions that maintain importance today. In order to remember Normandy and D-Day, it would be imperative to know that it was the invasion of German-occupied Europe from Great Britain onto the northern French shore. It is a major historical moment in American history, as we began what would be our most justified war and the war that would establish the United States as a super power in global politics. Iraq and Afghanistan are located in a region that Iran is located, which is why Iran is even more relevant. And history is just as important. Remembering history should have indicated that a determined populace will make any armed conflict much more difficult, and that insurgent warfare will increase risks of losing soldiers (American Revolution-Vietnam-Iraq/Afghanistan anyone?).
It’s no myth that history repeats itself, or presents patterns of thought that tend to be repetitious. It’s so crucial that we learn about all history, however. Not just American history, but all, so that we may spot these patterns and make more informed decisions. It would be comparative to a toddler touching the hot stove, forgetting that the stove burns when it’s hot, and repeating the action in 2 month cycles for the rest of the toddler’s life.
The Ohio State Legislature today is taking steps to make sure that students read important American and Ohio historical documents like the Constitutions of both the United States and Ohio, the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Pardon me for assuming this, but didn’t we have to learn about them in great detail in school? I remember at some point having to read several articles of the American constitution, know in and out the Bill of Rights, read and think critically about the Federalist Papers, and listen to the Declaration of Independence. Understanding how the government was intended to work has such an important role in becoming a good citizen, no matter what your politics. That we have let our children, somehow, not really learn how the government is supposed to run could be responsible for the fact that people still think the President writes legislation. Or that the President controls the economy. Or that the President is waging a war against religion by demanding basic human rights for all peoples, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic stature, and other factors. While it is true that the President is a very important position, reading the Constitution would show that the President is charged with enforcing legislation, guides and informs his party (but should not write legislation), meet with foreign dignitaries, and essentially be a leader in decorum and placing pressure on the people who DO regulate commerce and write legislation: Congress.
History and geography are so crucial to our existence as Americans. We need to do more to promote the learning of these “useless facts”, before the United States is a large body of water, and the President maintains centralized, absolute power over the rest of the government (sound like the government that we revolted against in 1776, anyone?).