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Study: Latin History Teaching Standards Lacking


American schools are doing a poor job of teaching history and culture of Latin America and Mexico, according to a new review of states’ world history teaching standards conducted by the Washington, D.C.,-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Although the institute has done previous studies on math and science standards, this is the “first-ever look at world history standards,” says Michael Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy.

“How can students make sense of the immigration debate if they don’t understand the history?” says Petrilli, noting the increasing importance of Mexican history.

The Euro-centric history lessons common in American schools lack any mention of major Latin American historical events and revolutionary heroes such as Simón Bolívar, according to the report, “The State of State World History Standards” by Walter Russel Mead.

“Two-thirds of the states received Ds and Fs… the Western hemisphere is just not mentioned,” Petrilli says.

The report also suggests the importance of the study of China as well as countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and India. These regions should be studied according to emerging world economic and political systems.

Judged on a 10-point scale, four states received a zero while 30 states – including Hispanic-dominated states such as Florida and Texas – didn’t do much better, scoring in a range of 1-5.

“We find vague statements and not a lot of detail” about Latin America’s history, Petrilli said of Florida and Texas. “So very little detail on events and individuals.”

The results do not surprise Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. “There is sufficient interest on the part of educators in regards to world history. As the Hispanic community grows, there should be an awareness of the history of Latin America and the Hispanic world to the United States,” he says.

California received the most praise for setting standards and providing detailed information. Questions on Islamic religious history to comparisons of Western philosophy and culture were clearly defined and met.

“Great teachers will be great no matter what… but states unfortunately don’t provide those standards,” says Petrilli.

–  By Shilpa Banerji

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