History standards are Eurocentric

Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke has received criticism for the conservative bias of her social studies – and specifically history – standards for Minnesota’s primary and secondary schools. After examining the standards, we believe these concerns are legitimate. Several University history professors disapprove of the glorification of U.S. history at the expense of ethical questions and honest assessment of dishonorable events in U.S. history. In addition, we question the nearly exclusive European focus in the study of world history.

The standards reflect such a Eurocentric perspective on world history that we wonder whether Yecke believes other parts of the world even have much history. For instance, according to the standards set forth, “Students will describe Russian isolation from Western civilization.” This demonstrates a clear bias – that Russia could only escape isolation and irrelevance through involvement with Western civilization. Are we to accept that the largest nation in the world has only one border – that to the west?

Perhaps even more confounding is the standard for ninth to 12th grade: “students will cite cultural and scientific contributions and achievements of Islamic civilization with emphasis on Spain.” The main relevance of Spain is as a battleground between Islam and Christianity. But Islamic civilization has also greatly influenced science, culture and religion in Africa, India and Southeast Asia. The standards don’t mention these contributions often emanated from the center of Islam – the Fertile Crescent – and instead focus on a remote and conflict-ridden part of Islamic civilization more conducive to a Eurocentric perspective.

The standards seem to reflect a clear bias toward European history. It appears Yecke has not yet realized this country is open to immigration from all parts of the world and is fast becoming more than a nation of European descendants. Do not these immigrants and longtime residents deserve to have their children taught the history of their ancestry as well? Maybe Yecke believes Westerners are the only people who actually have history.