The West Virginia Board of Education is considering reducing the number of credits needed to graduate from high school. This is the third time in three years they’ve considered it, and the second time they’ve proposed cutting social studies requirements to do so.
If anything, West Virginia students should be getting more U.S. and world history in high school, not less.
The state board argues that reducing the social studies credits would open up room for other electives, give local boards more control and eliminate redundancies is high school history courses. Without getting too far into the weeds, there are multiple ways around even three social studies credits in the proposal, although state board members say these are inadvertent loopholes that will be fixed if the policy is adopted.
When considering overlap, there’s plenty West Virginia social studies courses don’t cover. Even so, going over the same topic more than once from different angles under different instructors seems like it would give students a better working knowledge on that particular subject.
It’s hard to fathom other reasons eliminating a social studies credit would be a good idea. High school graduation rates in West Virginia are excellent. In fact, they’re almost too good, as many students who finish high school have to take remedial courses in college.
Maybe this is a way to get more students on a technical career track. Maybe it’s a way to reduce staffing costs. Fewer social studies credits implies fewer social studies teachers.
Speculation aside, improving an often maligned and typically bottom-pack public education system doesn’t start with eliminating courses on foundational knowledge that make future graduates better-informed citizens. It starts with better-resourced schools, and teachers who are paid well enough to want to teach here.
Another crucial factor is addressing poverty in West Virginia, as subpar school performance is almost always intertwined with lower-income communities. That might be beyond the Board of Education’s purview, but it’s an integral factor in the overall problem.
The bottom line is, students aren’t going to do better, in high school, higher education or life in general, with less instruction in social studies. The only thing that can be done with less, is less.
Public comment has reversed board policy when they’ve tried to do this before. West Virginians should make their feelings known when the proposal is released online and made available for public comment.