Unsocial studies

Kathleen Porter goes to the National Council for Social Studies convention, and finds the critical thinking advocates don’t much like to be criticized. A former social studies teacher, Porter now works for the Fordham Foundation, which recently came out with a report called Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?

Consider, for example, that while NCSS leaders discussed and denounced Fordham’s recent publication Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? at more than one session, they didn’t invite a single author, editor, Fordham staffer, or really anyone who disagrees with the status quo to engage in debate.

“Contrarians” in NCSS tried for years to get a session to discuss their views; when they succeeded, it was left out of the program and canceled. This year, Contrarians were evicted from the meeting room, which had been double-booked.

A small group attended, including a hostile NCSS past president and a current board member. A few of the authors of Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? presented their arguments, then opened the floor for discussion — a real one that included debate of hotly contested issues, something that I had not seen in any other NCSS session. During this debate, however, I was amazed by the mean, ad hominem, and insulting nature of the comments from the social studies establishment. Though the NCSS board member said that a more “productive” way to air these matters would be for the Contrarians to hold a general session where they presented their ideas and brought in opponents who could debate the pros and cons, in fact NCSS for years now has refused to give the Contrarians any room at their conference, let alone a large room to hold a general session and debate.

By the way, No Left Turns has revamped its Teaching American History site; social studies teachers may want to check out the free summer institutes for teachers.

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