Friday, May 13, 2016

The Importance of Social Studies

As a social studies teacher (or as a teacher period), of course, I think that my subject area is important.  Why would you teach any subject if you didn't think that it was important?  However, in the education world, social studies seems to be one of those subject areas that are swept to the side, along with physical education and the arts, whenever times get tough.  In many states, there aren't any high stakes tests for social studies, opting for English, math, and science only.

*DISCLAIMER:  Please do not take this statement as an endorsement of high stakes testing. I find tests to be outdated, inaccurate portrayals of teaching and learning, and as many states are eliminating them for other choices, I am applauding it and roasting marshmallows over the fires built on old testing policies.  Nevada has eliminated most high school proficiency tests, opting for requiring all students to take the ACT instead.  There isn't a minimum score that a student must earn; the only requirement is that a student takes the test as a requirement for graduation.  Unfortunately, there are still numerous tests at the elementary and middle school levels in Nevada, with no end to those tests in sight.  The only reason I bring up the lack of high stakes test for social studies in many states is to highlight the lack of emphasis on the subject area in comparison to others. 

This past week was a big week in emphasizing socials studies in my world.  It started on Monday when I hosted #nvedchat (Follow @NevadaEdChat on Twitter and join us every Monday at 8 PM Pacific).  My topic for this week's chat was Social Studies Across Curriculum.  The focus of the chat was why social studies are important, the responsibility of educators to mold prepared citizens, and how social studies can be addressed in other areas.  The participants of the chat were from all educational backgrounds and roles, with a resounding consensus that social studies are very important in a complete education.  Follow the #nvedchat hashtag and check the tagboard for previous chats and other interesting bits that people post about education.

The other event that culminated this unofficial "Social Studies Are Important" week was something that I have been doing for years with my US History classes.  If you are a social studies teacher, you may be familiar with the project, as I swiped the idea from another teacher years ago, modified it, and made it my own.  I call the project "Dinner for the Ages".  My students are grouped together to come up with a guest list for a formal dinner party.  The guest list is made of historical figures from throughout American history, then tasked with applying their views, morals, biases, etc. toward solving a modern day problem that affects the United States and/or the world.  After listening to 12 groups address issues such as police brutality, xenophobia, body image, and terrorism, it is clear to me that not only are students in tune with the problems of the world and want to do something about them, students also can see how figures from throughout his would have reacted to certain things that affect the nation today.  I couldn't be prouder of what these groups did over the past few weeks putting together their presentations.  It pains me to think, with my new job starting in August, that this may have been the last time that I ever get to do this project with my classes...

If you are reading this, most likely you already believe the importance of social studies.  Whether it is history, government, economics, sociology, all aspects of social studies have a profound effect on individuals on a daily basis.  The more informed one is, the more prepared for what lies out there in the real world.  How else can you question authority?

If you are a social studies teacher, keep fighting the good fight and mold as many as you can into amazing citizens.  If you aren't a social studies teacher (nobody is perfect, haha), ask yourself what you can do to incorporate social studies into your curriculum.

Until next time...