The pros and cons of learning state history

If you attend primary school here in the United States, you know that many states have required state history courses for young students that are centered around that state’s history. As a student who attended primary school here in Georgia, I recall spending one class a day in my eighth year of school learning about history specific to Georgia. I remember spending hours learning details of the colonization of the Georgia land, of the skirmishes of the Civil War and even of specific political leaders and their upbringings.

However, how useful is this information, and how does it affect students in both the short and long term? How applicable is it to everyday life, and why is it a requirement for students? Should this course — centered around specific state history — be a requirement for young students’ curriculum?

History is a vital component of students’ understanding of the world around them. Not only does it teach them about important events, it teaches them the mistakes made in the past, how the world recovered from them and how to avoid repeating those mistakes. I, as a young student, loved learning about history and past events as it gave me a window into what the world was like before today and how we progressed to the world we are now.

State history allows students to take a specific look at the history of their immediate surrounding area. This can make learning about history more applicable to these students at the time, which can draw a connection between the student to the event. It can spur conversation about how historical events have a direct effect on the lives of citizens of the state. On a curriculum level, state-specific history courses also can break down information, all while making the information more applicable to residents.

Though state history may pique students’ interest and allow them to digest important historical events in an easier manner, what is the application of this information? Why are state-specific events more important for students to know than events that occurred outside of the state?

Living in Georgia, a major event that affected the state was the Civil War. Every student learns about the Civil War, but why is it important for students living in Georgia to learn about it more in-depth based on the simple fact that Georgia was affected by this war?

Students who move around often, also, might not benefit greatly from this course, as the information can seem inapplicable to them — especially since they might be moving states and never have to think of the information again. The state-specific approach also removes emphasis on how certain events might affect the rest of the country, simultaneously making it less useful for students who move states, and less applicable for future recall.

State history is a more focused approach to learning about historical events, and how these events had a direct effect on the nearby society. State history is still history, and it does matter long-term. However, no state’s history matters greater than another’s, which is why curriculum should be shifted to cover a broader topic of important events of all states. Knowing each governor of Georgia might not have long-term use for students, but knowing a specific Senator and how they created change for not only Georgians, but for other states, too, can be useful.

Creating these connections from the focus of the state to larger events that affect the country as a whole can shift the importance of this curriculum, and possibly even create a long-term appreciation for not only state history, but for history as a whole.