THE MOVE TO CHANGE the way national and world history are taught in the nation's schools -- which was recently announced by the National History Standards Project -- is a step in the right direction.
The voluntary plan, which was approved by the National Council for History Standards, includes many changes but the ones that have been highlighted in the media deal with the move to a multicultural curriculum.
As a long-time high school history teacher, I applaud this different approach to teaching history which seeks to be accurate and show the roles that people from various racial and ethnic groups have played in our past.
If history is to be of value to our young people and to our nation, we must see to it that history books are accurate and fair, especially regarding Native Americans, Hispanics, women and blacks.
rTC The teaching of history should reflect how our nation has diversified. After all, the nation and the world owe much to the many racial minority groups that populate the planet.
In a recent article on The Sun's commentary page, Ben Wattenberg, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, raised questions about the new guidelines for teaching history. Mr. Wattenberg appeared to fear as much what might be omitted from history texts -- white males -- as what might be added -- the contributions of minorities and women.
But the new guidelines reflect a growing consensus among many historians that if history is to be of value, we must avoid making the historical omissions of the past. No longer will racial -- minorities and women be left out or relegated to footnotes. However, some historians go overboard in their desire for diversity. For example, in a new history book called "Exploring the American Experience," Harriet Tubman, the Maryland woman who helped guide many slaves to freedom, gets six mentions while Robert E. Lee gets none.
Such works clearly are not endorsed by lovers of history, we cannot publish history books that leave out key figures in our nation's history in the interest of multiculturalism. This would devalue the importance of history.
Diversity aside, we must strive to bring history alive in the nation's classrooms to keep our young people interested in the subject and to help prevent a repeat of past mistakes. For instance, the Holocaust that consumed the lives of 6 million Jews should be discussed in all of our nation's high schools. Such teaching will help insure that it never happens again.
Also, history classes are particularly important today because so few young people read newspapers, which helped tell past generations about national and world history. Scores of educators bemoan how little understanding our young people have of historic events.
In our rapidly changing world, there's still a place for history. Only the times demand that we teach history differently than the way it was taught when I was in high school. Now we must include everyone who helped contribute to our great society.
John A. Micklos teaches at Perry Hall High School.