Potential Basic Curriculum Outline for the two History of Western Civilization Courses

Ancient & Medieval History of Western Civilization, Grade 9

Unit I: Origins – Pre-Classical River Valley Civilizations

A. Paleolothic Era

B. Neolithic Era

C. Pre-Classical River Valley Civilizations

Unit II: Ancient Greece

A. Pre-Classical Greece

B. Classical Greece

C. Alexander the Great & Hellenism

Unit III: Ancient Rome (753 B. C. – A. D. 476)

A. The Roman Republic

B. The Rise of the Christian Faith

C. The Roman Empire

Unit IV: The Middle Ages (A. D. 476 – 1492)

A. The Dark Ages

B. The High Middle Ages

C. The Late Middle Ages

D. The Renaissance

Modern (European) History of Western Civilization, Grade 10

Unit I: Early Modern Europe (A. D. 1453 – 1648)

A. The Renaissance Papacy

B. The Protestant Reformation

C. The Catholic Counter-Reformation

D. The Age of Discovery

E. Conquistadors

F. The Scientific Revolution

Unit II: Absolutism, Enlightenment, Revolution, & Napoleon (A. D. 1648 – 1815)

A. Absolutism & Louis XIV

B. Enlightenment Philosophy & John Locke

C. Political Revolution in British North America

D. Social Revolution in France

E. The Napoleonic Wars

Unit III: The Nineteenth Century (A. D. 1815 – 1914)

A. The Concert of Europe

B. The Industrial Revolution

C. Socialism

D. Romanticism

E. Nationalism

F. European Imperialism

Unit IV: The Twentieth & Twenty-First Centuries (A. D. 1914 – the Present)

A. World War I

B. The Rise of Totalitarianism

C. World War II

D. The Cold War

E. The Contemporary World

Note: Non-Western Cultures & Civilizations covered at Key Points of Contact with the West. For example, the Achaemenid Persian Empire is a part of the Greco-Persian Wars, taught in Ancient & Medieval History, Unit II-B, Classical Greece. Also, the end of Japan’s Tokugawa Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration is part of Modern European History, Unit III-F. European Imperialism.

1st Year Progress Report: We’ve Only Just Begun

One year ago I began to work to make the History of Western Civilization a Graduation Requirement in Idaho’s High Schools.  I am proud to say that the effort has made real progress.  Rather than being one eccentric’s pipe dream, many have responded positively and a few have stepped forward to bring this dream closer to reality. 

Judd Wilson, then a Staff Writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press, was the first person other than my long-suffering wife Tina to offer real encouragement.  He interviewed me, took my idea seriously, and made a fine Front Page article of it (“Teacher promotes return of Western Civ”, July 16, 2018).  In addition to giving this proposal a wider coverage, his incisive questions revealed areas I needed to think through more clearly.  

Les Atchley, CEO of the Atchley Financial Group, has become a real partner in this enterprise.  He brings decades of successful experience in the worlds of business and politics, a subtle wisdom that balances my own impulsivity and inexperience in these realms, and a common sense appreciation of people and possibilities in proper proportion.  His willingness to make this cause his own has humbled me, and I can only aspire to be worthy of such trust. 

Letters have been sent to every Idaho School Board member, and I have made this proposal known to Idaho’s State Department of Education, as well as to several Elected Officials.  I expect that my most intensive efforts over the next year will involve expanding and deepening these conversations.  However, I am convinced that this will succeed if, and only if, everyday people begin to insist on the importance of Western Civilization’s History in the education of Idaho’s teenagers.

Local organizations such as the Rotary Club of Coeur d’Alene, along with its Evening and Sunrise Chapters, have graciously afforded me opportunities to publicly advocate this proposal, as have the Coeur d’Alene History Club, the Reagan Republicans, and the Republican Women’s Group.  I am eager to speak in front of other groups, including Liberals, Progressives, and Democrats.  Western Civilization is something that every single American shares in common.  Regardless of one’s personal ethnicity, gender, subculture, faith, or convictions, we each inhabit a common American society.  Our Melting Pot is, itself, a subset of Western Civilization. 

The Inalienable Rights of each individual to freely dream, speak, and act on the basis of conscience within the broadest possible limits are quintessentially Western, coming only from the Western tradition.  Nowhere else can a common person stand up to their leaders and survive, let alone succeed.  Several thousand years of courage, creativity, and conflict have produced a society where the conviction of the individual can sometimes stand against the power of the elite as well as the tyranny of the majority. 

Our Judeo-Christian Western Heritage includes the world’s only functional Reform tradition, championed today by Progressives and Liberals.  We need informed and empowered Reformers to insist that we more fully live up to our ideals, and to point out where we fall short.  Without them, we are prone to a self-serving self-delusion.  

What students will do with an understanding of the West is a matter of personal choice.  They might fight to reform the worst in our society, or they may strive to preserve our best qualities.  In all cases, they need to understand where we have come from in order to effectively advocate a best path forward.

“World History” clouds the focus on the West by implying that all cultures are equally significant.  All cultures have value, but the history of the West focuses on the narrative leading from the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Early Christians, Medieval English, and Reformation Europeans to the Founding Fathers and beyond.  “United States History” begins too late.  Students also need to know the history of modern Europe’s Industrialization, Imperialism, Revolutions, and World Wars.  Students must be mature enough to grapple with these lessons; the History of Western Civilization must be taught in High School, Grades 9-12.

What memory is to an individual, History is to a society.  Our identity is preserved, moment by moment, by our memory.  If we continue to neglect the teaching of our history, we will lose what makes America special.  It will simply be forgotten.  We cannot afford to let our cultural identity become irrelevant.  We must add the History of Western Civilization into our High School Graduation Requirements.


Appeal to Local Democrats

I am speaking to as many people and groups as will listen on the matter of including a year or two of Western Civilization as a Graduation Requirement for Idaho’s Secondary Schools.  While I am myself a Conservative Republican, I am convinced that this is a bipartisan issue.  Progressives and Liberals derive their philosophy from a long tradition of self-criticism and reform unique to Western Civilization.  I would like to speak before the Kootenai County Democrats on this matter, in hopes of getting your organization and membership to consider the possibility that my proposal may be worthwhile.

Like Jonathan Haidt, I earnestly believe that it is critical for Americans to cultivate the skill of productively discussing issues of significance with people who hold differing convictions.  It is a rare individual who is self-consciously and intentionally evil.  Most people, regardless of their ideology or philosophy, are motivated by good intentions.  If we really believe this, then in the heat of sharp disagreements we will remember that, at most, our opponents are misguided.  Neither rectitude nor good sense is exclusive to any faction.  Good and wise people can and do come to mutually exclusive conclusions.  Recognition of this is the foundation of all civil discourse.

So, I hope that you will be willing to invite me to speak before you for a time, and take questions and constructive criticisms, despite the fact that we probably vote differently.  All students in our schools have a common need to understand the past of Western Civilization, warts and all, if they are to make an informed choice about what they will personally stand for.  Without idealistic self-criticism, our society would stagnate.  From Socrates to Rev. King, it has been those willing to stand up and demand that “we” do better who have made our society more worth living in.

Ralph K. Ginorio

Coeur d’Alene, ID

Submitted to the “Idaho Statesman”, as “My Opinion”

Idaho’s State High School Graduation Standards do not now adequately prepare young Americans to understand or fulfill their civic responsibilities.  This is because there is no requirement to come to grips with the rich history of our Western Civilization.  As the United States did not spontaneously explode into existence, our Constitutional Republic cannot really be understood in isolation from its origins. 

While the state’s Social Studies standards do include a model for a “World History & Civilization” course requirement in Grades 6-9, this approach teaches critical material too early, too quickly, and without the focus needed to make this material coherent.  Middle School students simply lack the developmental capacity to really grapple with the complexities of our culture’s heritage.  The details of this five-thousand-year legacy requires more time and attention than one school year can provide.  And, wherever our physical ancestors originated, our culture and Constitution evolved specifically from Judeo-Christian European Western Civilization. 

Many Progressives are eager to prune habits of inequity, right past wrongs, and build a better society.  Many Conservatives are equally eager to keep the unique intellectual and cultural heritage that made us free a living presence in our everyday lives.  We are healthier as a society for both ideals.  Our Western heritage is something we share in common.  In our increasingly discordant political dialogue, we would be wise to recall what brought us together to this moment of decision.

Here is one story that every young American should know.  In 490 B. C., Greece was invaded by the Persian Empire.  Against all odds, the Athenians had defeated the Persian landing force at Marathon.  However, the surviving Persian leader had learned that the City of Athens would surrender immediately to any enemy forces that reached its walls in hopes of preventing a bloodbath.  Reasoning that he could bluff the city to surrender before its leaders learned of their army’s victory, the Persian fleet made haste to reach Athens.  One man, Phidippides, was told to run the twenty-six miles to Athens and tell them not to surrender.  This lone runner hoped with every stride to be the deliverer of his people.  His fear was that he would push himself too far and die, just short of passing on his message.  He reached shouting distance and passed his message on to the startled Athenians who were just about to open their gates to the invader.  He then promptly died.

What this reminds us is that one person can change the world.  He need not be a Prophet, King, General, or Artist.  He just needs to have integrity.  Phidippides saved Athens, alone on his run, and with Athens was saved the next 2,500 years of Western Civilization.  This one obscure athlete changed everything.  We each should recall Phidippides when we despair!

Idaho’s individual School Districts should lead the State Department of Education in requiring all Graduates to have taken and passed a year of Ancient & Medieval History as well as year of European History since the Renaissance.   

To The Idaho State Board of Education

Esteemed Members of the State of Idaho’s Board of Education,

I write to ask to be included as a member of the public who wishes to make a statement during your upcoming October meeting in Lewiston.  As I understand the format, such comments are to be of only a few minutes duration.  Assuming that you can make time in the Agenda, please let me know when and where I might have the chance to address the Board in session.

Idaho, along with every other U. S. State I’ve researched, has accidentally neglected a core function of American Public Education.  This neglect is not a product of malice.  Rather, it is a function of blind spots integral to the philosophies that have dominated pedagogy since John Dewey nearly a century ago. 

Progressive Education and its successors see education as the diagnostic application of scientifically-tested methodologies.  The goal is to inculcate skills and habits in students which will lead to their willing integration as functioning members of our society.  Wherever possible, the terms and assumptions of these are rooted in quantitative research.  This view minimizes the need for History. 

History is nothing less than society’s memory.  Consider the uttermost importance of memory by its absence in any victim of Alzheimer’s disease.  Moment-by-moment, all that we are as a unique person is perpetuated by our living memory.  So it is with culture.  Without a critical mass of citizens understanding who we are as a society, the distinct set of values and experiences which made ours the longest functioning Constitution in today’s world, will fade into an un-remembered irrelevancy.  Without our cultural memory, American society will quickly lose its cohesion, identity, and freedom.      

Public schools were established to prepare common people to responsibly exercise their franchise.  Universal mandatory education was chosen as the necessary counterpart of the universal adult franchise, intended to inoculate voters against demagoguery.  Our American Republic is in the hands of voters, so the preparation of those voters is of paramount importance.

This is the justification for all History and Social Studies curricula.  Yet, Idaho currently makes no requirement that High School students be systematically introduced to the unique cultural heritage that produced and continues to energize our Republic.  Currently, Idaho standards encourage one year of “World History & Civilizations” to be taught somewhere between Grades 6 and 9.  U. S. History I is now taught anywhere between Grades 6 and 12.  Grades 10 through 12 are now devoted to U. S. History II, U. S. Government & Politics, and Economics.

            1.         Middle School students simply lack the intellectual sophistication and emotional maturity to understand the complexities and subtleties that comprise notions of human freedom and value. 

            2.         “World History”, by its insistence on being culturally neutral, does not sufficiently focus on the complex narrative History of the West necessary to comprehend where our Founders found their inspiration. 

            3.         “United States History” begins this tale near its end.  If our Founders’ inspirations are understood in context, they can be appreciated as the results of thousands of years of intellectual history.  If students have no sense of this context, or of the deeper pedigree of their ideas, than the Founders’ convictions can be dismissed as merely outdated opinion.

The following fundamental restructuring of Social Studies requirements should remedy this situation.  At least two years of the History of Western Civilization should become state-mandated graduation requirements.  Ancient and Medieval Western History should ideally be taught in the 9th Grade, while Modern European History since Columbus should be taught in Grade 10.  Civics should be integrated into an 11th Grade U. S. History course, covering from the pre-Columbian Americas to 1898.  Economics and U. S. Government & Politics should be integrated into a 12th Grade U. S. History course, covering from the Spanish-American War through the present. 

Every High School Graduate should have passed four years of History, designed to introduce each to his or her own culture and civilization.  Other cultures would be covered in these courses at their point of contact with the West.  For example the divergent histories of China and Japan from the 1840s through the 1940s would be taught as part of 19th and 20th Century History. 

Other cultures have value, but it is of critical importance for American students to understand their own Western culture; a culture that belongs to all of us, regardless of ethnicity, faith, or background.  Understanding the policies of today’s Peoples’ Republic of China also require a knowledge of the West, as the Chinese Communist Party is inspired by Marx and rejects Confucius.  

All students, academic and non-academic, deserve to have the story of their own culture coherently explained to them in terms they will understand.  They each need to understand why the people of the United States are touched by events all around our globe; why prosperity is linked to stable world trade and why they might someday need to go to war. 

There is no such thing as a “Global Citizen”; what we are obligated to do is educate globally-conscious American citizens in a manner consistent with their future civic duty.  Please consider the need to introduce Idaho’s future adults to their own culture and duty.


Ralph K. Ginorio

Coeur d’Alene, ID