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The Disappearing Social Studies Curriculum: What Cost to Democracy? Margit E. McGuire, Ph.D. Seattle University Why teach social studies? To prepare students for living in a democratic society and interdependent world. To be informed and thoughtful To act politically
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What Cost to Democracy?
Margit E. McGuire, Ph.D.Seattle University
To prepare students for living in a democratic society and interdependent world.
Civic Mission of Schools, 2003
“Research suggests that students start to develop social responsibility and interest in politics before the aged of nine. The way they are taught about social issues, ethics, and institutions in elementary school matters a great deal for their civic development.”
Civic Mission of Schools, p. 12
Name the three branches of the federal government. (Executive, Judicial, Legislative) 41.2%
Name as many of the Three Stooges as you can. (Curly, Larry, & Moe) 59.2%
http://www.constitutioncenter.org/CitizenAction/CivicResearchResults/NCCTeens'Poll.shtmlNational Constitution Center, 1997 Poll
…and the trend continues
James S. Leming, Lucien Ellington, & Mark Schug, Social Studies in Our Nation’s Schools, May 2006, p. 10
The Washington State Council for the Social Studies, with assistance from several other groups, this past fall conducted a survey on the status of social studies education in the state. The primary goal of the survey was to find out whether social studies education is on the decline, as we have heard anecdotally, and if so, why.
Of those who felt social studies has declined, approximately 80% cited as the reason "state testing," "the WASL," "No Child Left Behind," "focus on reading and math," or some otheranswer that could be categorized as "a result of school reform." If we also included the comment "focus on other subjects," this percentage would be even higher.
Narrowing of the curriculum
More focus on low level knowledge
Fear and threats
Public education under attack
Literacy is the focus of the school day
Literacy is the focus of staff development
Resources are devoted to literacy
…and now mathematics
Reading about the social world is not the same as teaching social studies.
Research on Science and Literacy Integration at
Retrieved January 21, 2007
P. David Pearson 7-12-06.ppt
Using the skills of literacy are necessary for learners to access the social world, giving purpose and meaning to the use of such skills. They are not an end in and of themselves.
For example, using the skills of driving a car are important but you also need to know where you are going.
Social studies at the early grades is superficial at best and boring at worst or as Brophy and Alleman claim “…trite, redundant, and unlikely to help students accomplish significant educational goals” (p.13).
Brophy & Alleman (2007). Powerful Social Studies for ElementaryStudents.
Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
Teachers (especially primary teachers)
focus on literacy
Administrators focus on literacy
Staff development focuses on literacy
You can’t teach what you don’t know
Policy makers focus on literacy…and now math
Social studies at all levels focuses on what to teach
National and State Standards
Social Education Articles
Scope and sequences
In the context of standards and testing, no one is willing to challenge the issue of an overcrowded curriculum…
resources to rethink how we teach social studies
Teaching what matters most is critically important for teaching for understanding
Enduring--value beyond the classroom
At the heart of the discipline not kibbles and bits
Engaging to learners--especially for those we do not want to leave behind
Wiggins and McTighe (1988).Understanding by Design, Alexandria, VI: ASCD
Less experimentation with new ideas and ways of teaching
More standardized curriculum
--”one size fits all”
Less attention to learning needs of individual learners
Less attention to engaging learners in authentic learning
Less opportunity to learn social studies
Continued issues of school failure and dropout
Disengagement from school
Can we create dispositions towards democracy and the belief in the capacity to make a difference if we deny these children access to social studies education?
The Storypath strategy uses the components of story--scene, character and plot--to organize curriculum into meaning and memorable learning experiences.
It is more than reading a story, it is living the story guided by the teacher as learners create the scene, become the characters and solve the problems presented through the plot.
“A clear and compelling narrative helps us find meaning, not just scattered facts and abstract ideas. Stories help us remember and make sense of our lives and the lives around us….A story is not a diversion; the best stories make our lives more understandable and focused” (p. 48).
Wiggins, G & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VI: ASCD.
Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Egan, K. (2001). Imagination. in Turning the perspective: New outlooks on education. Enschede: CIDREE/SLO
Egan, K. (1990). Romantic understanding: The development of rationality and imagination, ages 8-15. New York: Routledge.
Downey, M. & Levstik, L. (1991). Teaching and learning history. In J. Shaver (Ed.). Handbook of research on social studies teaching and learning (pp.400-410). New York: Macmillan.
Problematizescontent, encourages substantive conversations
guides students’ thinking about important concepts and values.
Graffiti in the Park
Bullying in the Park
…to enhance both
learning and social outcomes
students need to “buy into” the educational experience
In the Storypath students receive messages that they are knowledgeable and able, have classroom control, have a place in the classroom, and their voice is valued.