It is not enough for our students to be citizens of the United States of America; they are faced with the challenge that no other generation has: they are citizens of the world. Social studies, as a focus in classrooms today must be more than a history class. In fact, social studies should include all content areas and be included in all content areas. In math, it is not enough to learn isolated logarithms; students should explore economics and the interdependence of the world economies. A current events guiding question might include, Will the failure of Greece’s economy affect those of its neighbors and beyond? Science class should not be the teaching and learning of statics and dynamics and origin of life, but how bridges have influenced the world; and what regional, religious, and socio-economic factors have influenced the debate on the origin of life.
English should not be the only language studied in U.S. classrooms; in order to be competitive our students must learn and use other major languages of the world: Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, or Farsi. While a classical education is still competitive, incorporating modern functionalities is vital. In order to achieve a country of global citizens, our students must become well versed not only in reading, writing and arithmetic, but also in the study of societies and their impact on one another.
Enter the surprisingly overlooked curriculum of social studies. This untested, citizen- producing, rich curriculum, invites participants to explore the interactions of people, cultures, economies, religions, governments and more! As a throughline for all subject areas, social studies could very well be the unifying thread that pulls the world together.
An English teacher is unlikely to truly review the social studies curriculum, and yet, upon reading that of the State of Connecticut, it is evident how many ways the two disciplines can be combined. In the introduction pages of the social studies curriculum for the State of Connecticut, it states that the framework “…should help students build empathetic awareness along with the ability to apply that awareness to understanding both historical and contemporary issues…. It requires one to be willing to suspend judgment, weigh evidence and examine another point of view. At times, it may require us to confront controversial topics.” In the language arts curriculum, in Standard Two, Exploring and Responding to Literature, students are guided to “read and respond to classical and contemporary texts from many cultures and literary periods.” While studying the curriculum, students will “recognize that readers and authors are influenced by individual, social, cultural and historical contexts.” Without knowing what those individual, social, cultural and historical contexts are, students cannot possibly be truly successful in language arts.
The second content strand for social studies addresses History/Social Studies Literacy. The...