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World history could be a new requirement in Ohio schools

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Graduation prerequisites for Ohio high school students may be transforming once more, as politicians are scheduled to consider legislation Wednesday that would add one more requirement to the curriculum.

Under SB 96, students would be required to complete one unit of world history, in addition to the half-unit of U.S. history and half-unit of U.S. government already required. This change, introduced over the summer by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley, would come on the heels of the state’s New Learning Standards adopted in 2010 by the Ohio Board of Education.

The potential change is being met with mixed results from educators who believe in the benefits of global education, yet remain reluctant to accept less-local flexibility.

“It’s important for the students to get more than just simply the American perspective, especially when learning about time periods before the 20th century when the United States wasn’t the world’s superpower or one of the world’s superpowers,” said Isaac Thomas, the department chair of social studies at Athens High School. “I think it’s important for students to get a different viewpoint of events, to get the world perspective, so they’re going to be much more inclusive of other cultures, other viewpoints.”

While world history may be considered important for students to get a more well-rounded perspective of the globe, the increase in state mandates may not be welcomed with open arms.

“I’m a fan of local school districts and school boards also having some say in their curriculum. If they’re going to mandate one more … I’m in favor of that being modern world history,” Thomas said. “I’m also a little bit conflicted because the more mandates that come down from the state, it really does tie our hands and gives us less flexibility in terms of the types of classes and electives (we offer and) that sometimes … can become burdensome.”

According to Thomas, recent changes to the social studies curriculum include an increased number of primary sources used in U.S. government and history courses, as well as changes in standards that weakened some areas and strengthened others.

When debating the new bill, politicians will have to find a balance between a strong statewide education system and local district freedom.

“World history is really incredibly important for students to learn, I just don’t know if state mandates and state laws are necessarily the right way to go about making sure that students learn these things,” Thomas said. “I also believe in local schools having some flexibility and say in what they’re able to teach.”

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