History has always been my favorite subject, especially American History. I even majored in history as an undergraduate. So, needless to say, I loved my American history class in the eighth grade.
We were studying the Revolutionary war (it doesn’t get much better than that) and I was having a blast with my project. I was staying after school to work on posters of maps, battle plans, and recruiting posters. Then, the teacher asked me if I would like to take World History with ninth graders since I seemed to pretty much have American history down.
I was horrified at the thought. Just because I had mastered the subject at the “8th grade level,” I was supposed to stop studying it? O.K., I have to admit that it was an easy A but that was besides the point. As far as the teacher was concerned, she had nothing more to teach me and I was ready to move up in the system.
The thing is, this wasn’t math, where I might be moving from pre-algebra to algebra. It wasn’t reading, where I might move on to more difficult material (and that’s another story.) In other words, I wasn’t “advancing” in the subject but leaving it all together.
Some would argue that history is history and you were advancing from local to international. I don’t buy it. In ninth grade, I took American History again (different school) and then went to yet another school where tenth graders took American History and ninth graders took World History. So I was the only tenth grader in a class of ninth graders for World History.
The point is that the sequence of history classes is arbitrary as are many curriculum of studies. Should English Literature be taught before World Literature? Is Algebra necessary for Geometry? Ultimately, by forcing students to follow a set progression, schools often loss the student’s interest in learning at all.
Furthermore, my eighth grade teacher was wrong in that I wouldn’t get much of out her class. She might not be teaching me anything new, but I was certainly learning plenty on my own. I might not have been “challenged” by the material presented, but my love of history overcame any inclination to just coast through the class–which would happen in later situations.
I declined the offer.
Today, whenever I start to worry that we’re spending too much time learning about the Civil War (we’re going on six months now,) I think about my eighth grade history class and then head to the internet to find some more information on the Civil War.