When you look at a typical high school history curriculum, you might wonder why some topics are covered and not others. Local governments play the greatest role in what high school students learn in a typical history class. Also, textbook publishers influence what topics make their way into public school history curriculum.
Typical Subjects Covered
A typical curriculum will cover important figures and events, as well as political, social, economic, and cultural developments. These elements are usually organized by different periods in history, such as (in American history) the Founding Era, Civil War, Industrial Era, Modern Era, Great Depression, WW2 and the Postwar Era.
States also have a meaningful impact on the selection and regulation of a curriculum. Some state constitutions provide the state with the authority to determine what textbooks will be used in the classroom. States set the mandatory requirements for students to graduate. Local school districts can offer additional optional education courses.
The Influence of Textbooks
Not every textbook teaches the same angle on every historical event. For instance, one textbook might argue that the Civil War was a states' rights issue, while another history book might argue that the primary focus of the Civil War was slavery.
The Influence of State Boards
Textbooks are an important part of a high school curriculum because most courses are framed based on the contents of their textbooks. The textbooks are usually selected at the state level by the State Board of Education. The board creates a list of textbooks that school districts can then choose from. This gives individual school districts more influence in what students are learning, while allowing the state boards to set the general framework.
The textbooks are selected by the State Board of Education through a committee of volunteers. At least half of these volunteers must be teachers. The rest are professionals who have a background in the subject matter. The right textbook is chosen not only based on what it covers, but also on whether the material is engaging and is covered in an age-appropriate manner.
The Influence of Publishing Houses
As for the textbooks themselves, publishing houses hire historians, authors, and editors to determine what will go in an individual history textbook. Based on the market that the publishing house will be targeting, the history book must cover subjects that are required by those markets.
Texas school districts play a large role in what is taught in textbooks since they are the second largest purchaser of textbooks. For this reason, a large percentage of textbooks are tailored to appeal to the requirements of this state.
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