Missouri House hears bill on high school graduation requirements

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Jefferson City - The Missouri House of Representatives heard a bill (HB 1982) Monday that would require Missouri high school students to take a world history course in order to graduate. Under the bill, "Passing a test on world history or otherwise demonstrating proficiency in world history in lieu of completing a course shall not satisfy the requirement."

Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, sponsored the bill. He said cultural understanding is missing in the majority of American societies, including Missouri.

"World history would give our students the ability to learn across cultures," Ellington said.

He said racism is often perpetuated by ignorance, and having children learn world history in schools would reduce racism.

"The accurate understand of history, particularly when we look at what we call minorities over here, so if we look at Africans, Asians, Latinos or anything in between, we often look at them as a secondary citizen. We don't value their attributes or their contributions to our society. When we learn world history, we not only learn how American society was founded, we also learn about other ethnicities."

Michelle Baumstark, the Community Relations Director for Columbia Public Schools, said Columbia schools have already had world history as requirement.

"It's one of the three credits required under social studies for quite sometime. I do believe there's also a similar credit requirement at the state level," said Baumstark.

Rep. Bryan Spencer, R-Wentzville is the Vice Chair of Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. He said when he checked with his schools and his districts, all of them already offer World History as an option for their students to take. Right now the graduation requirement is three courses in history. 

"Most schools that offer World History offer it as an elective. It's not a mandated course. Certain school districts do have a World History course, but it may not be comprehensive," Ellington said.

Spencer said making this a mandate takes away a choice that a kid can explore a possible future for them. He also said the Missouri House of Representatives has 13 legislative dates left, and it likely won't get through the legislative process to become law.

"We're going to run out of time before it gets half way through the process," Spencer said.

Ellington expected he would have to work on this bill again next year, but he wanted to get the majority of people in the Missouri House to understand the difference between the American history and world history.