Chapter 1 - Section 4

Why Teach Social Studies?

Social studies helps to prepare students for life in a
rapidly changing, increasingly complex world.

     According to the National Council for the Social Studies, rapid changes are occurring in America and in the world which will create a more “multiethnic, multiracial, multi-lingual, multi-religious, and multicultural context for elementary education. … Social studies must be a vital part of the elementary curriculum in order to prepare children to understand and participate effectively in an increasingly complex world.”

     The History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools begins with this observation: “The only prediction that can be made with certainty is that the world of the future will be characterized by continuity and change. The study of continuity and change is, as it happens, the main focus of the history-social science curriculum. The knowledge provided by these disciplines enables students to appreciate how ideas, events, and individuals have intersected to produce change over time as well as to recognize the conditions and forces that maintain continuity within human societies.”

     Additional information on changes in demographics that affect American schools can be found in the report The United States of Education: The Changing Demographics of the United States and Their Schools from the Center for Public Education.

     Former astronaut and Senator John Glenn participated in a forum about the future at Ohio State University and discussed the role of innovation in science and technology in the future.

John Glenn Talks Future Technology on This Week @ NASA

Student Talks with Astronauts
on the International Space Station

Social Studies Is Needed To Help Students Become Effective Citizens

     According to the National Council for Social Studies, a strong social studies program helps students “acquire a critical foundation for lifelong participation as citizens.” Such programs include content from the core social studies areas of civics, economics, geography, and history and provide developmentally appropriate experiences with democracy.

     The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards also emphasizes the importance of citizenship. According to the Framework, “Advocates of citizenship education cross the political spectrum but they are bound by a common belief that our democratic republic will not sustain unless students are aware of their changing cultural and physical environments; know the past; read, write, and think deeply, and act in ways that promote the common good.”

     President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, shown in this video clip, included the famous challenge: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Students can compare inaugural addresses and think about what they might include in an inaugural address. Additional activities for promoting good citizenship are available at the Good Citizen website.

A Young Patriot
U. S. Army

Social Studies Helps Students Use and
Enhance Language Arts and Communication Skills

     The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts identify specific language arts standards for history and social studies in grades 6-8. The skills identified in the standards include Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. The Common Score Standards specify that by the end of grade 8, students will be able to read and comprehend history and social studies texts in “the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.”

     The Illinois Learning Standards for Social Science also identify specific language arts and communication skills that help students “gather a range of opinions and determine the best course of action and study and draw conclusions about social science issues.” These skills include: reading and interpreting textual and visual information, listening to others, and organizing and explaining their own ideas using various media.

Social and Communication Skills
Source: Harvey Foyle

Social Studies Helps Students Apply
Critical Thinking And Problem Solving Skills

     According to the Illinois Learning Standards for Social Science, “In social science, solving problems helps students to recognize that individual decisions and actions have consequences – and these consequences affect the way people, groups, and nations associate with each other. Students of social science are asked to analyze information from a variety of sources and to solve problems through a rational process based on goals and criteria.”

     The Iowa Core Social Studies Standards identify “possessing basic knowledge and ways of thinking drawn from many academic disciplines, expressing ideas in written form, reading reflectively and critically, and analyzing their own and others’ opinions on social issues” as benefits of social studies which help students to become “motivated to participate in civic and community life as active and informed citizens.”

     Critical thinking and problem solving skills that apply to the social studies are described by the Public Schools of North Carolina.

     An example of a critical thinking activity from the Center for Texas Studies demonstrates how students apply critical thinking skills in a social studies lesson example.

Critical Thinking
Source: Harvey Foyle

Social Studies Promotes Positive Relationships,
Teamwork, and Empathy for Others

     In addition to the areas of economics, civics, history, and geography found in most state standards for elementary social studies, the Pennsylvania Social Studies Academic Standards also include Student Interpersonal Skills. According to the Pennsylvania standards, these skills are needed for students to “successfully navigate the social world of family, school, college, and career connections, not only in America but in the global marketplace.” The standards address self-awareness, self-management, relationships, decision-making, and responsible behavior “which reflect the demands of adult life in society.”

     According to the Illinois Standards for Social Science, teamwork is an important way in which students apply their social learning. “Social science is about people’s interactions. Study in this field encourages students to listen carefully to the views of all members of a group and to represent their own point of view appropriately and effectively. The group benefits from the individual knowledge and skills of its members.”

     According to the Ohio Department of Education, social studies is important because it provides students with the ability to “empathize with other people and appreciate their activities as intelligent adaptations to time and place.” Students recognize themselves as part of history and develop an understanding of continuity, change, and chronology.

     Some of the ways in which students gain understanding of each other as part of the social studies curriculum are shown in the video below from the Rockwood Schools. Strategies for building a classroom culture where students feel valued, cared for, and respected is found in this instructional module from Teaching Tolerance.

Social Studies in Rockwood

Field Trip to the Farm
Source: Sheila Broyles
Section 3   Section 5