A Small World after All

Article excerpt

Here they go again. Just a few weeks after standards for teaching American history brought criticism from conservatives who bemoaned the new outlook, guidelines for the study of world history are generating similar complaints. If anything, though, lessons in the history of the world need to be broadened beyond the traditional focus on Europe that has characterized textbooks for generations.

That European emphasis grew naturally out of the experience of those who first colonized North America. What they came from and what they fought to escape presented a natural contrast that showed young Americans where much of their culture and their values had begun. Western civilization was not only the name given many standard history courses; it was also the source of much of what initially evolved and emerged as American.

The world has changed a lot since then, transformed by succeeding waves of immigration, world wars, jet-age transportation, instant communication and an economy that is undeniably global. What happens in other countries affects what happens in the United States, and what happens in other countries today is affected by what happened there in the past. The world is truly shrinking.

Recognizing that international interdependence, historians commissioned by the Department of Education and the national Endowment for the Humanities developed standards for the study of world history. …