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Why World History Needs Fixing

Many students today regard history - world history, in particular - as a boring subject. The only reason it's taught is because someone thinks that, in an age of globalism, students need to know about other cultures. The challenge is to make world history interesting to students. This starts with the way the subject is organized. We need to take a fresh approach to teaching world history.

Some criticisms of world history as taught today

1. Although today's textbooks contain slick illustrations, the section categories (based on historical periods) are often incoherent and confusing. Students cannot see how world history fits together. Some textbooks - products of committee work and often written by junior faculty - are riddled with errors.

2. The world history is overly focused upon governments and political events. Students cannot see why this history should interest them: There are too many dry facts. Political histories lead to histories glorifying politically dominant groups.

3. This scheme of world history is subject to political pressures:

(a) conflict between those who insist upon the supremacy of western civilization and multiculturalists who tend to show Europeans in a bad light;

(b) fads within the academic community. For instance, many historians today believe world history is all about interaction between societies; the internal dynamics of societies are thought unimportant.

(c) histories of some people as victims of other people.

4. There's too much emphasis on "pressure cooker" development of analytical skills and comparisons between different societies, enough to kill anyone's interest in a subject. There's not enough emphasis on storytelling as a means of transmitting knowledge.

5. The history shows regional bias or culturally conditioned value judgments. To be a true world history, it needs to be relevant to societies throughout the earth.

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