PROPOSED NATIONAL STANDARDS for teaching children world
history have drawn fire for what some critics call flattering views
of the world's varied cultures at the expense of Western
The wide-ranging standards provide lessons on Greek and Roman
civilization, while urging teachers to have students map the
territories liberated by Simon Bolivar, or trace the spread of
Islam in Southwest Asia, North Africa and Europe.
Critics contend the standards for grades five through 12 cast
historical figures such as Genghis Khan in a positive light, while
downplaying the role of Western societies that prized individual
freedom and democracy.
But members of a coalition of teachers and educators that
produced the federally funded report maintain they are giving
students perspective on the roots of different cultures needed to
live in today's world.
"These standards recommend that world history be genuinely a
world history: history that encompasses the humanity of the entire
world," said Ross Dunn, who edited the standards for the University
of California at Los Angeles Center for History in the Schools.
"The standards say it is important to understand the development of
Western civilization, but they should study (other) developments
and they will understand those better in the context of world
history," said Dunn, a history professor at San Diego State
Project co-director Gary Nash said that in today's global
economy, understanding the roots of Japanese, Latin American or
other cultures will give students a firm footing for the commerce
of the next century. "These kids are going to live in a truly
international economy that includes international politics,
international environmental issues and international cultural
exchanges. This is a shrinking globe," said Nash, a UCLA professor.
The release of the standards comes on the heels of the October
release of the center's American history standards for grades five
Those standards also drew fire for being political correct
revisionism that overshadowed the role of white males such as
George Washington. Also set to be released are American history
standards for kindergarten through grade four.
The new world history standards divide history into eight
periods and seek to focus on developments that affected large
numbers of people and had broad significance for later generations.
Aside from simply being too voluminous to be easily
incorporated into a curriculum, critics say the world history
standards provide a more critical view of Western civilization than
Ruth Wattenberg, deputy director of the educational issues
department for the American Federation of Teachers, said, "It's
good for history students to look close and scrutinize what they're
reading, but you need to do that across the board and not just for
the West. …