A bill filed by state Sen. Dan Patrick (R–Houston), aims to restrict the scope of the six U.S. history credits required to graduate from a public university in his state. If the bill passes, students won’t be able to satisfy their graduation requirements by taking ethnic or cultural history courses and will instead be forced to choose a history course pertaining to “economy, politics, war and other significant events” according to a post on Patrick’s Facebook page. A case study by the National Association of Scholars, titled “Recasting History: Is race, class and gender dominating history?” explored the various history courses offered at the University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Ultimately, it was this report that motivated Patrick to file the short-sighted bill.
The research conducted by the NAS seems to be an overstep, as it marginalizes multiculturalism and ethnic studies. Proposing such a drastic bill requires far more research. This demonstrates a serious lack in understanding the value of all types of history. Fundamental to the study of history is a difference of opinions, debate and case-specific research. The teaching and learning of history would not flourish in the restrictive environment this bill would create.
In 2010, another bill in Texas was passed making it mandatory for high-school students to take two of the three social-science courses: “United States History Studies Since 1877,” “United States Government” and “Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits.” This structure is very broad and adequately introduces students to American history before they graduate. Enforcing Patrick’s American history requirements on college students would be counterproductive and perhaps repetitive. Students attend college to expand their knowledge base, and they should not be restricted to take certain history classes while barred from others.
Furthermore, if the bill is passed, some experienced professors who are renowned in their field of research will be ignored. Classes such as “History of Mexican Americans in the U.S.” and “The Black Power Movement” that, according to the NAS report, are being taught right now at University of Texas and Texas A&M wouldn’t count towards the American history requirement for students to graduate. This doesn’t only avoid the study of diverse communities, but this requirement would also restrict students’ options and limit their exposure to a diverse array of topics. What Patrick fails to realize is that these cultural and ethnic topics are wide-ranging because they surpass the borders of our nation. Ignoring ethnic minorities and different cultures isn’t just undervaluing these groups, but denying students the knowledge and tools they need in such an intercultural, globalized world.