By: Tyler Witherspoon
World Cultures, the mandatory freshman history class that teaches about different regions throughout the world, has been met with varying opinions from students around the school. Some freshmen are very supportive of the class, noting its relevance and importance. When asked about the class, current sophomore Noah Abrams said, “World Cultures is a great class. I learned a lot about my own learning styles and the different opinions and outlooks of regions around the world.” Many fellow students believe this to be the case as well, noting they learned much more than just about world history. The class teaches study skills, awareness of others, and an ability to understand and comprehend critical thinking questions and essays. Mr. Matthew Baum, chair of the Gilman History Department, believes World Cultures “is a good fit for our curriculum. It exposes students to different cultures from Africa to Asia to Europe to the Americas. It exposes us to different types of text.” World Cultures also allows teachers to shape the learning experience to fit both current and deep-seated issues, and many believe that it provides a positive experience for the students involved.
However, this positive view of World Cultures is not shared throughout the whole student body. Many students also believe World Cultures is providing a negative influence on the history department as a whole. These students believe that there is more informative and important history to be taught in place of the world cultures topic. Other students have suggested replacing this course with Ancient History or East Asian Culture. These are more specific history topics that allow for an understanding of study skills and self-discipline, while also teaching students crucial information about past events. When asked about his world cultures experience, Sophomore Logan Paff said, “Although I enjoyed my teacher and class, I do not believe the class was helpful to me. I was not very interested in the material and I believe the topic was way too broad, not allowing me to become actively engaged. I definitely think there are better and more helpful topics of history we could learn.” Students who came through the Gilman Middle School also cite World Cultures as being very similar to the geography class taught in sixth grade.
Both of these views of World Cultures are known by the teachers of the History Department; however, there is no active pursuit in changing the curriculum. Mr. Baum stated, “...we are always evaluating our curriculum and keeping an open mind, but I am very positive about World Cultures as a class overall.” The history department is in agreement with the students who believe World Cultures is a positive experience for the Freshman class, but have heard and understood the concerns and issues that multiple students throughout Gilman have had about the course.