I love social studies. I love tracing the realities of now to the events of then. I love thinkin about what my ancestors were likely doing at each period of history. I love looking at todays problems and finding the causes or even the solutions in history. History can teach us so much about the world we in and the people we live in, but when If I were to step into the average Social Studies class in my school I wouldn’t see anything like that (some classes are exceptions I will admit). For the most part kids are forced to outline textbook chapters. Memorizing facts about dates and turning points, wars and treaties, dynasties and kings. . . Learning formats for DBQs, learning tricks to answer the multiple choice questions. . . I don’t think any of that accomplishes the goals that learning history is supposed to achieve.
I think the goals of learning history are broad and connected to everything we do in life. Making good citizens, creating skeptical thinkers, challenging beliefs, the goals of a social studies class are so broad and that to define it merely as knowing events is silly. I had the experience of taking AP World history and AP European History, and unfortunately so much of it involved outlining chapters of a textbook. Memorizing the order of Chinese dynasties and of religious wars doesn’t help me achieve any of the goals I just stated. Sure knowing the time periods gives context, but that isn’t enough.
I had good teachers in those classes, but they were so held down by having to cram for an AP test that our discussions and debates were very limited. This is of course part of my main idea that teaching and learning should be an exchange of ideas between students, to eachother, from
the teacher, and to the teacher! I believe that the teacher should be able to play devil’s advocate and studemts should be able to challenge him or her. This works to make kids better critical thinkers and give them confidence in their ability to communicate!
Remember, the goal of studying history and studying society is huge and very broad. 1. Create informed citizens. 2. Allow students to think about patterns and ideas. 3. Relate ideas from history to now. 4. Make students feel connected to the rest of the world.
To complete this we have to teach and learn history not as a memory game, but as a thoughtful understanding process.