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After Backlash, N.C. Expands High School U.S. History Requirements

High school students in North Carolina will have to take two U.S. history courses to graduate, under new standards the state board of education approved yesterday.

The action comes months after the state encountered a firestorm of criticism for a draft state plan that would have limited the high school history mandate to one course focused on the post-Reconstruction years to the present.

"This has been a bumpy road of sorts," state board member John Tate told the News & Observer newspaper of Raleigh.

When the state department of education put forward its earlier plan for new social studies standards, officials said they had no intention of diminishing history instruction. State Superintendent June Atkinson said at the time that the revised standards would actually have increased the amount of time students spent studying U.S. history during their elementary and secondary schooling, and that they would learn plenty about the major developments throughout American history.

But with all the negative feedback, state officials agreed to revisit the plan.

"Our students cannot become productive citizens without an understanding of the people and events that have shaped our nation and our world," Atkinson said in a press release yesterday. "The curriculum that will be taught in our classrooms reflects the importance of these lessons as well as a high level of input from teachers, historians, parents, students, and the citizens of this state."

(Presumably that "high level of input" is a veiled reference to the vociferous criticism the earlier version encountered.)

The press release from the state department explains that the U.S. History I course will provide a study of European exploration of the New World through the Reconstruction Era. The U.S. History II course will provide a study of the 19th century to contemporary time.

However, the News & Observer reports that an apparent exception to the two-course mandate comes for students who take Advanced Placement U.S. history. They will be not required to take a second such course, but must take a social studies elective, the story says.

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