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Learning The Why Of History

Remember your high school and, perhaps, college history classes? Hopefully, you learned a lot about what happened during the past two or three millennia.

You were taught virtually nothing about why important things happened, however. And, unless you educated yourself after leaving school, you don’t understand why some things are happening now and others are likely to occur in the future.

Last Sunday, we printed a long letter to the editor from Kim Stephen Mattis, of Triadelphia. He’s a retired Wheeling Park High school teacher who still substitutes in advanced placement classes.

Mattis addressed plans by state officials to alter social studies requirements for West Virginia high school graduates. He made a number of important, thoughtful observations. His letter ought to be required reading for state Board of Education members.

Perhaps the most important recommendation Mattis made involves world history classes. They shouldn’t exist in high school, he wrote.

Instead, Mountain State high schools ought to be teaching world cultures, including history, Mattis believes. “The culture, the governments, the peoples who live there, customs, religion, language and history will still be included but at a reduced emphasis,” he explained in his letter.

“This class would have more meaning that plain history. We, for example, need to know some Chinese history, but the present day culture is more important,” Mattis added.

Bullseye.

Not just incidentally, Mattis also thinks high school social studies ought to include a heavy dose of “how our government works …” That includes local and state affairs.

Mattis is a perfect example of what I’ve held for many years: The problem with public schools isn’t the teachers. Its the educrats telling them what to teach and how to teach it. Can there be any reasonable doubt that had the Mattis system been the state mandate while he was at WPHS, that school’s graduates would be better prepared for life? Of course, one suspects that where he was able, Mattis injected some of the information he recommends in the classes he did teach.

What’s more important? Knowing Muslims and the Crusaders hated each other, or understanding why they did?

Doing what Mattis suggests would not be easy. His path is strewn with political correctness land mines. For example, dare we explain that some Islamic denominations are more prone to violence than others?

Mattis’ letter is among the most important we printed last year. If you missed it or want to review it, go to our website (theintelligencer.net), click on the Opinion tab at the top of the page, then hit Letters to the Editor. Read or re-read Mattis’ letter carefully.

Then call someone on the state Board of Education or, perhaps, your local state legislator.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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