Learning How To Be Americans

It’s tempting to suggest that high school social studies could be eliminated entirely, except for two lessons hammered into students’ heads over and over again:

1. Two plus two never equals five, no matter how many times a politician tells you it does.

2. Regarding anything a politician may say, refer to Lesson One.

Judging by the way millions of people vote these days, quite a few high school graduates don’t seem to have learned those things.

Obviously, I’m oversimplifying. Kids ought to be taught a lot about America and Americans, as well as the rest of the world. They may get less of that if the West Virginia Board of Education proceeds with a proposal some fear would reduce the requirements for U.S. history in high schools.

Board members are considering major changes in high school graduation requirements. One of them would, as I understand it, reduce the amount of time students must spend on U.S. history.

One board member, Debra Sullivan, of Kanawha County, told a reporter she worries about “cutting social studies back.”

But some educators say something has to give. There are so many varied requirements, including an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes, that there just isn’t time to cover everything properly, they say.

Perhaps not. But it is important for people to have some knowledge of our own history and current conditions. In order to avoid being misled by folks such as those who proclaim Venezuela a socialist paradise, it’s critical to know about other people, too.

It has been said familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t think that’s true in relation to our history.

Knowing what our ancestors went through — the challenges they faced, the danger they coped with, the refinements they made in our system of government — tends to make one more appreciative of what we Americans have. It also makes us deeply grateful to those who sacrificed so much for us.

Finally, it reminds us we as a people have made many mistakes, ones that could be repeated if we are not always on guard.

Some policymakers believe our schools need to devote more time to vocational courses that prepare graduates to enter the workforce. I agree entirely.

At the same time, let’s not forget the need for “job” training on how to be an American.

Myer can be reached at:

mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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