Social Studies Has Become an Education Desert

July 27, 2019

I wanted to research the latest trends in Social Studies. When I dutifully entered the search words into my Google window, a long menu of articles popped up. The algorithm presents the most popular sites in order. The first study was very perceptive and corresponded nicely to our mission statement at Midgard to employ “multiple perspectives of historical events,” to include “a respect for minority rights, tolerance and understanding of other beliefs,” and to emphasize the “development of critical thinking and decision-making skills necessary for effective participation in a democratic society.” We couldn’t agree more when the report encouraged teachers to “cover issues in depth, using literature and writing activities. Students will then learn more information and improve their performance on standardized tests. Literature, including fiction, biography and autobiography, speeches, myths and legends, and diaries can bring historical periods to life and provide a flavor of the thought and feelings surrounding a historical event. Writing assignments which require sufficient time to explore a topic prior to writing and which involve discussions with classmates and teachers as part of the evaluation process foster the in-depth study and reflective thinking that should be a primary goal of social studies.”

It was written in 1999 (Cardis, Risinger), during the last century.

The second item, also with plenty of good suggestions, was written in 1965! The ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) report praised emerging trends such as “giving more attention to Negro and Latin influence on American life” and using “every conceivable type of instructional material, including transparencies, artifacts, card sorters, and games.” Not bad advice for 1965.

The same organization updated their report, according to the third item, in 2000.

The National Council of Social Studies published their latest report on “Current Trends” in 1999, although, to be fair, it focused on early grades, not middle school.

After an hour or so, I began to wonder if there’s been new, objective research on emerging trends in social studies during the last twenty years.

Without taking anything away from our esteemed colleagues in Math, Science, and English, isn’t it about time that Social Studies people get a little love?

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