When I began thinking about opening this blog last year, my 21st Century Learning Compatriots asked me to answer this question, “When our Middle School began moving toward departmentalization, why did you choose to specialize in social studies when you had taught in almost all areas of the curriculum?“
I will have to say that it was an absolutely gutwrenching”toughie” of a decision, because I have been, am, and hopefully always will be an ongoing, passionate student! I’ve always been droolingly fascinated by current events and new discoveries…whether in African digs, snapshots from the Hubble telescope, or political upheavals occurring in real time, and I always have 3 or 4 books in progress…fiction and nonfiction…How could I give up sharing any of these subjects with my classes? But, ultimately, I chose to teach social studies with “history” as the base from which I will approach what I teach. Why? Because history is the study of how everything, everyone, and every idea has evolved. I can touch on it all via social studies.
Learning about the history of our world civilizations. from whence we have come….
“…may not actually change our actions…but
at least we can’t say we were never warned!”
(This is an important, famous quote…but, I think the stereotypical view of the study of history to “learn from our past so we don’t repeat our mistakes” is simplistic at best…if we’ve been trying to minimize our seemingly endlessly repeating human errors by looking back at them via the study of history, we humans should have long ago ended war, ethnic and religious prejudices…and so on…but here we are in 2011-2012…and even the most superficial student of history should be able to see the threads of old that are still in play!)
So here are a few other reasons why I believe the study of history/social studies is still worth the time in any student’s curriculum:
•It’s the study of everything and everyone in every subject area… You say you want to be a well-rounded, educated individual? Well, history is Knowledge 101!
•We learn about the world we live in—all that is good, and bad…and how it got to be the way it is.
In 2011-2012 we live in a global village and MUST become more and more familiar with the people and places on our planet. It is no longer OK to not care about where other countries are and what events are happening there. Events on the other side of the world may be soon affecting us…
–In the last few years we have seen the possibilities of pandemics; if a contagious disease breaks out…in this age of travel, it will not remain isolated in that area.
–We have seen that financial difficulties in an individual country can rapidly impact the other countries of the world in our global economy.
–We are also bombarded daily with the news images of what have seemed to be an endless series of environmental disasters around our planet. Last year in Pakistan there was one of the most devastating floods in human memory; it impacted over 1/5 of the population, bringing homelessness, starvation, and disease. In the horn of Africa, today, thousands are dying due to a combination of political and environmental factors. How will these impact the world economically and politically? How can we, as fellow humans, help we ask? Technology almost precludes real isolationism in 2011-2012.
–And one final reason to be “worldly wise” is (as I mentioned in “Meet and Greet” )so that when we hear that the Russians are invading Georgia, we won’t (like the young man on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show”) be worried that the people in Florida should be getting an army ready to defend our state, so close to Georgia’s border!!! (…and if you don’t get this either, you will!)
• In social studies we see that Jewish studies, geography, government and politics, economics, art, music, and language arts are not subjects in isolation. Therefore, by using history as a uniting thread we can view the world in a multi-perspective totality.
–History gives us some of the best stories of all time…and they really happened!…and the best examples of heroes and villains… and they really lived!
–Once you have carefully taken a look at literature or the plots in movies, you’ll soon come to realize that most of the ideas are not new. Good writers have studied the events from history for ideas that inspire…how did individuals face adversity, show courage, fight for what was right against terrible odds, or, unfortunately, make very bad moral choices with devastating consequences? Those are some of the lessons of history.
–It helps us understand why we should have pride in our country, how it came to be, and the areas we should work on/improve together so it can be what it has stood for at its best.
–It helps us realize what it means to be a citizen and the price countries have paid when freedoms were taken away.
Recently Afghanistan went “ to the polls” to participate in an election for their country’s leadership. The Taliban there continue to want control…do you know what that would mean for their people? Could anything like that happen here? We have also watched, in real time, the countries of the Middle East take steps to overthrow long-standing dictators. What forms those new fledgling governments will take are in flux; we are watching revolutions as the world changes before our eyes!
• History and the other areas of social studies provide critical skills that will not only help you in middle, high school, and college, but in life!!
Aside from note taking, outlining, research, and other study skills, social studies is a laboratory for assessing, analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating evidence; and raising questions. With understanding, prejudices lessen and maturing personal points of view evolve. Is it any wonder that many graduate schools—such as law, economics, psychology, business, and the sciences look for a strong foundation in the area of social studies?
Most of all, history and social studies are fascinating and terrific fun!!
Love, Mrs. R
“The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation or people will begin to forget who or what it is and was. The world around it will forget even faster.”
Blind Czech historian Milan Hubl