Social studies follies

There are no Common Core social studies standards, nor even a framework for standards, but there is a “vision” of a “framework for inquiry,” reports Ed Week.

Welcome to the social studies follies, writes Checker Finn on Education Gadfly. The “vision” of a College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework will “focus on the disciplinary and multidisciplinary concepts and practices that make up the process of investigation, analysis, and explanation.” The document goes on:

It will include descriptions of the structure and tools of the disciplines (civics, economics, geography, and history) as well as the habits of mind common in those disciplines. The C3 Framework will also include an inquiry arc—a set of interlocking and mutually supportive ideas that frame the ways students learn social studies content. This framing and background for standards development to be covered in C3 all point to the states’ collective interest in students using the disciplines of civics, economics, geography, and history as they develop questions and plan investigations; apply disciplinary concepts and tools; gather, evaluate, and use evidence; and work collaboratively and communicate their conclusions.

The C3 Framework will focus primarily on inquiry and concepts, and will guide — not prescribe — the content necessary for a rigorous social studies program. CCSSO recognizes the critical importance of content to the disciplines within social studies and supports individual state leadership in selecting the appropriate and relevant content.

Nowhere is there a mention of “knowledge,” complains Finn.  “When was World War I, why was it fought, who won, and what were the consequences?” Dunno.

Of course, “content” is mentioned, but Finn isn’t impressed. “This could turn out to be simply awful.”

American students don’t know much about civics and aren’t prepared for citizenship, writes Rick Hess, who’s co-edited a new book, Making Civics Count, with David Campbell, political scientist at Notre Dame and authority on civic engagement and Meira Levinson, education philosopher at Harvard and author of No Citizen Left Behind. In a 2006 survey of college students, “more than half of seniors did not know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the establishment of an official national religion.”

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  1. Perhaps they should start their studies by looking into the planet Earth.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    It’s easier to fill a bucket which is empty. Question is, what is the potential fill?
    Surprised to find “The Cold Equations” in a HS reader. Somebody slipped up there.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    Mark. Precisely, and the story had a lot to wish for. Sorry.
    I presume the OWS folks missed the point.

  4. lightly seasoned says:

    The literacy standards for Social Studies are pretty heavy on reading/analysis of “foundational documents.”

    FWIW, there’s little content specification in the ELA CCSS, either. I think it’s all a hot mess, personally. Nobody can tell you how it will all be assessed, which will determine how and what will get taught. All the proposed test questions I’ve seen from PARCC and Smarter Better would double the national debt to score.

  5. One of the most serious flaws in all state standards and tests is that social studies teachers/departments aren’t accountable for reading and writing scores. Ultimately, social studies teachers should be teaching the skills of analysis and critical thinking of non-fiction, informational texts the same way English teachers do with fictional texts. This represents a huge gap in acquiring the skills necessary of higher education and citizenship.

    • Michael, I’m not convinced that analysis per se can be taught. Isn’t it an in-born faculty? The story of civilization CAN be taught however, and once one knows it, one can analyze it, and use that knowledge to analyze our contemporary situation. Without knowledge, analysis is impotent.

  6. “Social studies” should be dumped and replaced with history, geography, etc. At least those terms mean something.

  7. My recollection of “Social Studies” was a mishmash of topics without any coherency.

  8. A close relative who recently retired from teaching HS history has said for decades that content and coherence went out the window, particularly in ES-MS, when history, government and geography became social studies. I would also add a required HS course in practical economics for all. Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics would be a great guide.