History Advocates

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The following focuses on the educational standards developed by the state of California for the history curriculum at middle school level. The scope of this initiative, however, is not intended to be limited to middle school nor to the state of California. Changes to standards applicable to the history curriculum at high school level are also being considered. Further, expanding the reach of this initiative beyond the state of of California is envisioned as an important component of this initiative.

World history is first introduced to California students in sixth grade beginning with ancient civilizations. The teaching of ancient civilizations in sixth grade is dictated by the History- Social Science Content Standards  (http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/histsocscistnd.pdf) defined by the California State Board of Education ( CSBE). Educators are explicitly asked to teach the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Kush, the Hebrews, Greece, India, China and Rome. In the History - Social Science Framework  (http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/documents/histsocsciframe.pdf) a document derived from the Content Standards- Persians are mentioned briefly and only as adversaries to the ancient Greeks. Overlooked in this superficial treatment are the lasting contributions of a civilization that has played a culturally influential role in Western Asia for virtually all of its history. 

In the words of Professor John Lee, currently collaborating with the CSBE on revisions to the standards: " Some may protest that there is not enough room in the curriculum to treat every ancient civilization. It is hardly possible, however, to argue that Achaemenid Persia should be excluded for lack of space. Achaemenid Persia played a central role in the development of the ancient world. For two centuries it was the largest empire the world had ever seen, spanning Egypt, Europe, the Near East, Central Asia, and South Asia. The Achaemenids created an enduring legacy that has influenced everything from ideas of rulership to the development of gardens and irrigation." 

The History-Social Science Framework in its current form provides no substantive treatment of Achaemenid Persia: nothing about its foundation and political development, nothing about its administration and economy, nothing about its culture or legacy. It is these deficiencies that are being currently addressed through the process of revising California's standards.