Raleigh, N.C. — Beginning next school year, North Carolina high school students will take one American history course instead of two so schools can add a personal finance class to the schedule.
The State Board of Education approved the change Thursday to comply with state lawmakers’ demand for the finance course. David Stegall, deputy superintendent of innovation, said the decision puts North Carolina more in line with other states.
“U.S. history in 47 other states is one course … so we’re not trying to go against the grain,” he said. “We were the exception before.”
Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, who helped champion the finance course, told EducationNC last April that the class is needed to help high school students learn how to handle money, especially with the state’s growing student debt.
Mariah Morris, North Carolina’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, said students are “hungry” for that type of information. She recently visited her husband’s civics and economics class and asked students their thoughts about the new personal finance course and what specifically they would like to learn.
“Hands down, they want this class. They were so pumped. They were hungry for it,” she said. “They want to know about credit and debit, taxes, what W-4 forms are, W-2, how to budget, how to get grants for college, what fraud is, 401Ks, interest levels, how to get a mortgage [and] how to do business forms.”
Currently, North Carolina students are required to take four social studies classes to graduate. They are:
- World History
- American History I
- American History II
- American History: Founding Principles, Civics and Economics
Lawmakers are now requiring schools to teach the finance course beginning in 2020 and a new civic literacy course in 2021. The following social studies courses will be required for graduation beginning with incoming freshmen for the 2020-21 school year:
- World History
- American History
- Founding Principles of the United States of America and North Carolina: Civic Literacy
- Economics and Personal Finance
“We can only have four social studies graduation requirements,” Sneha Shah-Coltrane, director of North Carolina public schools’ division of advanced learning and gifted education, told state board members last month. “We are limited to four, of which two are now legislated.”
State Board of Education members grappled with the subject last month as they discussed how the new finance course impacts American history teaching, schools’ social studies curriculum and students’ graduation requirements.
Board member James Ford said last month he worried the new social studies requirements will give students an incomplete picture of American history that “creates a legacy of historical ignorance at a moment when we least need it nationally in our discourse.”
“I mean, I would love to talk about financial literacy, grounded in some macro-economics of racial wealth gaps and all that, but I know that’s off the table,” he said. “A lot of this feels very problematic to me … This feels like an à la carte arrangement when it comes to history. As we think about creating global-ready citizens, it really frightens me.”
Students need American history teaching “that is centered on multiple perspectives, not just traditional white protestant male perspectives,” Ford added.