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Major Shifts in World History in the New Framework

created Oct 20, 2016 10:36 AM
  • What were the differences in point of view and perspective between the Persians and the Greeks, and between Athenians and Spartans? (Grade 6, Chapter 10)
  • How did the environment affect the development and expansion of the Ghana and Mali empires and the trade networks that connected them to the rest of Afroeurasia? (Grade 7, Chapter 11)
  • How has the post-Cold War world and globalization facilitated extremist and terrorist organizations? (Grade 10, Chapter 15)

Last summer, I had the privilege of working on the world history chapters of the new History-Social Science Framework.  I received this privilege because I am former 10th-grade Modern World History teacher, a die-hard fan of the California History-Social Science Project, a Ph.D. in Medieval History and a current teacher of world history and medieval history at various universities and community colleges.  As I worked on the framework, I’m writing today to communicate to you the most important changes in the world history chapters (10, 11 and 15) of the framework.

The three questions above are examples of the first major shift.  They are three of the investigative questions that structure the world history chapters of the new History-Social Science Framework.  They emphasize the framework’s focus on content, inquiry, literacy, and citizenship.  The new framework also integrates the Common Core State Standards and the new ELA/ELD framework, content knowledge and analytical skills, and new content mandated by state law.   These striking and exciting changes impact all the grade level chapters of the framework.  However, in the world history chapters, these shifts are accompanied by substantial changes in the content and narrative of the history itself.  The opening questions illustrate some of the shifts. Let’s look at the first question.

  • What were the differences in point of view and perspective between the Persians and the Greeks, and between Athenians and Spartans? (Grade 6, Chapter 10)

In addition to emphasizing inquiry and analysis rather than content mastery, this Grade 6 question reflects  the massive changes that have taken place among historians in the field of world history – or “global” or “transnational” history, as some call it today.  The Persian empire may have been on the periphery of Europe, but from a world history perspective it was at the center of the trade and migration routes that connected regions of Afroeurasia together.  As an enormous, multi-cultural, and long-lasting empire, Persia was a major player on the world stage for centuries.  The new framework integrates up-to-date historical thinking on Persia and other significant areas, such as the Mongol Empire.  However, this integration does not merely add more content (in the sense of facts to be memorized) to the 6th grade history curriculum.  Instead of more for teachers to cover and for the students to memorize, the questions like this one encourage investigation of sources, analysis of multiple perspectives, and forming interpretations. 

  • How did the environment affect the development and expansion of the Ghana and Mali empires and the trade networks that connected them to the rest of Afroeurasia? (Grade 7, Chapter 11)

This Grade 7 question illustrates two other shifts of the new framework – increased emphasis on environmental connections and interactions between regions.  The cultures studied in 6th and 7th grade were shaped in specific ways by environmental factors – location of resources, patterns of rainfall, and access to seas, to name just a few.  While this is true of all cultures, teachers can more easily demonstrate the impact of the Sahara desert on the Mali Empire, for example, to young thinkers who struggle with abstraction.  The framework integrates maps and primary source accounts, and lessons from the Environmental Education Initiative’s online collection, to support the development of environmental literacy.  Students will also go beyond studying West Africa in isolation because connections between regions and interconnections across Afroeurasia are central in the new framework.  A central theme of the world history narrative is the increase in interaction between cultures over time.  By 300 CE, when the 7th grade curriculum “begins,” the key regions of Afroeurasia – China, South Asia or India, the Middle East or Southwest Asia, and the Mediterranean or Europe – and extensive areas around these key regions were connected by trade routes.  Exports derived from natural resources, such as luxury products, metals, and spices, crisscrossed Afroeurasia, as did armies of nomads, migrating tribes of settlers/warriors, travelers and merchants.  They carried with them religious and philosophical ideas, such as Christianity and Buddhism, art styles, languages, and medical techniques.  By 1550, flows of trade encircled the earth, linking environments, cultures, and economies.  The globalization of the modern world is part of this continuing pattern of increasing interaction.

  • How has the post-Cold War world and globalization facilitated extremist and terrorist organizations? (Grade 10, Chapter 15)

The final question, from Grade 10, connects the end of the Cold War and globalization to extremism and terrorism in the modern world.  When the old framework was written in the mid-1980s (although the standards were revised in 1997) this connection may have been brewing, but it is only visible in hindsight.  However, to a modern 10th-grader, it is a vitally important world issue today.  In the new framework, the last portion of the Grade 10 has been completely rewritten to stress the issues that have emerged in the last 15-20 years.  The question also emphasizes that teachers should use specific case studies, such as the “Decolonization” lesson from the History Blueprint Cold War unit, which guides students through investigating Nasser’s Egypt in the Suez Canal Crisis, rather than attempting to “cover” such a broad topic as “the post-World War II world.”  As students analyze the multiple perspectives of the US, the Soviet Union, Third World nations, and Arab nationalists, they acquire a deeper, more complex understanding of the root issues of imperialist domination, nationalist aspirations, and secular and religious responses to westernization.  As they read different perspectives from key players in the 21st century, students can apply the insights they have gained from the case study to identify the underlying causes and historical roots of modern terrorism.

Will every student be able to grasp all of these connections?  Although that’s not likely, every student can read and analyze the recommended excerpts from primary sources, as long as teachers provide literacy support and guide them through the inquiry process.  This takes more time, but it gives students the much richer experience of truly acting as historians.

 
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