Ohio lawmaker is pushing to require world history and world culture courses in high school

CINCINNATI -- Before Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose was deployed to Iraq as a green beret, he learned about important differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims – communities whose differences have led to deadly conflicts throughout the Arab world.

People named Abu Bakr or a variation on that name, he knew, were invariably Sunni, and those named Ali were Shiite.

"It made me more effective at my job for having a basic appreciation for the people I was working with," LaRose said.

The Republican senator from Copley Township near Akron cites his experience as a reason why a basic knowledge of world cultures and their histories is invaluable to well-educated Americans.

To that end, LaRose has sponsored a bill that would require that Ohio high school students be be taught at least one world history and civilizations class, a move he and other proponents say is key to succeeding in a world brought ever closer by globalization.

"We're stating that if Ohio students are going to compete and succeed in a global economy, they're going to have to know about the other 96 percent of the people on this planet," he said. "Anybody with a smart phone can transact global commerce."

Current Ohio law requires high school students to take American history, American government, and two units of unspecified "social studies." Most school districts require world cultures because students are tested extensively on world history in the Ohio Graduation Test.

But that graduation test will be retired as early as next school year and be replaced by new tests that will cover much less world history, leading LaRose and other proponents to worry that schools will opt to teach to the test and cut world history prerequisites.

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