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Revamping the social studies curriculum

Let us hope the social studies curriculum does not become the third rail of education reform in West Virginia. There are clear needs for improvement.

It would not be surprising if state school officials decide to back away from changes in requirements for high school social studies classes. Response by the public and educators to one recent proposal could result in reluctance to revisit the issue similar to what Congress has demonstrated in regard to Social Security — touch it and die politically.

Late last year, state Board of Education members considered a change in high school graduation requirements. Currently, four social studies credits are required. It was suggested the number be reduced to three.

That would have lessened emphasis on U.S. history and quite possibly resulted in high school graduates with no exposure to world history.

The idea flew in the face of evidence that young people need to know more, not less about our own nation and other people in the world.

Last week, state school Superintendent Steve Paine announced the idea is being dropped. The social studies requirement will remain at four credits. Paine cited “a vigorous response” regarding the matter.

Good. Retaining the four-credit rule is wise. But continuing to look at social studies with a view to improving what our schools teach and how they convey it is vital.

Paine and state board members should enlist some critics of the now-abandoned proposal to form a task force charged with recommending improvements. Those who ignore improving how we educate children on history are doomed to repeat it.

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