Joseph Wyatt: History and social studies courses essential (Opinion)

The three Americans in history with whom I would most like to have lunch? Benedict Arnold, Lee Harvey Oswald and Donald Trump. Chicago mobster Al Capone was a close fourth. I would wear a Hazmat suit.

My list surely was influenced by my years in Kanawha County public schools. Now, however, I fear for the educations of our next generation of students. According to a Jan. 12 report by the Gazette-Mail’s Ryan Quinn, yet another plan is afoot to undercut high school history and social studies standards.

Under the proposed plan, which was requested by the state school board and then devised by 109 “stakeholders” (including just a single high school social studies teacher), counties would have the option of eliminating their two-course sequence on U.S. history. Presently, students may opt for either the two-semester version of America’s past or for a single class that accordions the nation’s several centuries into just one semester.

The guaranteed availability of the two-semester sequence is on the chopping block, under the new set of rules. Similarly, the requirement of four social studies courses would be reduced to three.

Are some of the stakeholders among the crowd that plunged us into the charter schools era? Inquiring minds want to know.

Among the topics that would not be specifically required in the one-course version of American history is the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed more than 50 million. But perhaps omission of deadly flu would cause no distress to today’s anti-vaxxers, one of whom would appear to be the chair of the state’s Senate Education Committee. The Vietnam War and the present Middle Eastern conflicts, like the flu pandemic, would be whisked off the page as if they never had existed.

Another topic that might go by the boards is the history of America’s efforts to contain communism. The flinty-eyed among us may suspect that Reds have crept into the group of education planners. If so, the commies evidently shared the stakeholders’ table with the titans of capitalism, given that the new standards also squelch students’ educations on the rise of corporations through monopolies and mergers.

The rise of racist groups following the Civil War also could disappear from the curriculum. But that may be understandable, given that the election of Barack Obama proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that racism is gone from America, assuming we don’t count neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville or President Trump telling women of color in Congress to go back where they came from or the enduring appeal of statues erected to folks who believed that some people should own other people.

There also would be condensations of the movement to abolish slavery, the Black Panthers, the United Farm Workers, the Chicano Movement, the American Indian Movement and the Occupy Wall Street Movement. That might suit today’s conservatives, except that also among the topics to be downplayed is the more recent Tea Party Movement.

Impeachment offers a real-time illustration of the importance of enriching, rather than diluting, our students’ history and social studies instruction. Surprisingly, there are no current standards requiring the study of impeachment. That may be good news for Republicans in Congress who serenely abide their party’s dishonest claims that the president was not afforded due process in the impeachment investigation. Surely high school students ought to learn, if nothing else, that Donald Trump’s impeachment process in the U.S. House was accomplished according to the Constitution’s requirements.

Joseph Wyatt is a Gazette contributing columnist and emeritus professor

at Marshall University.

Funerals for Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Adkins, Kenneth - 11 a.m., Evans Funeral Home Chapel, Chapmanville.

Carney, Herman - 11 a.m., Poca United Methodist Church, Poca.

Chrislip, David - 11 a.m., Elk Funeral Home, Charleston.

Coon, Iverson - 2 p.m., Pleasant Grove Church, Reedy.

Fisher, Delmer - 1 p.m., Long and Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.

Frame, Joe - 2 p.m., Elk Hills Memorial Park, Big Chimney.

Gibson, Floyd - 1 p.m., Stevens & Grass Funeral Home. Malden.

Harmon-Ray, Barbara - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Kennedy, Eva - 11 a.m., Christ Church United Methodist, Charleston.

Patton, Loretta - 1 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Peters, Bobby - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Phillips, William - 3 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Ritchie, Juanita - 8 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Scott, Jimmie - 11 a.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Taylor, Kenneth - 1 p.m., Waters Funeral Chapel, Summersville.

Tribble, Harvey - 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Buffalo.

Williamson, Grayson - 11 a.m., Anderson Funeral Home, New Haven.