Sophomore history switch short-changes students


Three years ago, ETHS gave its sophomores the outstanding chance to choose from Global History electives – but two years ago, those choices were yanked from the curriculum. Left in their place is a watery Modern World History course.

Before the 2013-2014 school year, freshmen had some choices to consider when selected courses for sophomore history. Students picked a region of the world that lit up their eyes with interest – African Culture and History, Latin American History, Asian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, or Russian history. If none appealed, Humanities 2 was offered just in case. Now that option is gone, and its replacement is less savory and less significant.

Nicole Parker, the History and Social Sciences Dept. chair, said that in general, schools have been moving to a more streamlined approach to history – wider breadth, but less depth. Because freshman history is focused from the dawn of mankind up to the 1800s, Parker felt that sophomore year was a logical place to catch students up on the last 200 years, from the 1800s to present day.

Parker’s point is well taken – Modern World History is an important class. Students should be briefed on the more recent chapters of the globe. However, exchanging it entirely for the Global Electives seems like it’s short-changing students.

For many students, these history electives were the only feasible opportunity to learn about their roots. For Hispanic and Latino students, Asian students, and Middle Eastern students, sophomore electives were a major way to understand the history of heritage. Though the senior course African American Studies remains, the point still stands: by taking away these courses, ETHS has blocked students from connecting deeply with a part of the world.

By giving students the option to select a history course, ETHS encouraged students to take their education into their own hands. Giving students the chance to choose specific courses, especially as early as sophomore year, is empowering. These classes gave students the chance to learn about their historic roots. In turn, each class was filled with people excited to participate. But now, like many underclassman courses, sophomore history is just another mandatory class, trying to cram every country’s last two hundred years into one.

Though Modern World History may touch on individual pieces from the old electives, it cannot create a full picture of any region – only a piece-meal narrative constructed by a few case studies. Glossing over tons of histories isn’t as meaningful as focusing deeply on one.

Perhaps the most dedicated history students could find major meaning in a broad, scrapbook narrative – but not everyone is a dedicated history student. Perhaps Freshman history should have a heavier focus on modern world history, again allowing sophomores to select diverse courses. Modern World History’s breadth is important, but exchanging it for the depth of the Global Perspectives classes may discourage students from finding their full historic passion, and most tragically, understanding their true roots.