Is the predominant role of social studies instruction about history? That is a question that is raised in our reading this week. Almost all social science educators consider history to be the most important component in the social studies curriculum. Chapin (2011) confesses this in her statement, “History truly has the central place in the social studies curriculum” (p. 167). Within the parameters of teaching history you have two major fields that are studied, namely US History and World History. Chapin (2011) also points out two different tasks that students should grapple with when learning history. They are:
- To make sense of the interpretations of the past and be aware of the various perspectives and
- To use thinking skills and reasoning as a historian would in looking at evidence, point of view, and interpretation.
(Chapin, 2011, p. 168)
Different versions of two fields of history are represented in all 6-12 grade classrooms in the United States but they vary in scope, sequence, emphasis, and chronology. Even within these two accepted fields of study many raise the question what (and whose) history should be taught? This is a very important statement that has developmental and identity ramifications for the teachers teaching and students learning history. A famous historical idea that comes to mind is that the winners write history, not the losers. This question touches on the topics of civics education, multicultural education, and global education. Chapin (2011) demonstrates this reality when she raises the question: “The most significant controversy in the teaching of history is whose history should be taught. What do you think should be the emphases in US history? World history?” (Chapin, 2011, p. 198). Chapin (2011) also states, “What is the proper balance between nationalism and global education? Multicultural education and unity?” (p. 230). Think about these questions and reflect on them for your posting below.
In addition to the above issues that are always present in history discussions we also need to discuss what methods/approaches are used to guide the students in learning history and acquiring history and critical thinking skills. Should we teach it through textbook and supplemental materials that have been mostly used throughout the history of education? Should we integrate the technological innovations of the Internet, computers, and tablets (such as the iPad) and create a new way of teaching history? This current debate is being held not just in social science education circles, but throughout the world as education and its current structures and institutions struggle to remain relevant in a very digital and paradigm-shifting world. This is another question that you as future educators must grasp and struggle with in your future as you teach history and other social sciences to the nation’s youth. What are the benefits and trade-offs for each of these two approaches? How does this question relate to the others listed by Chapin (2011)? Furthermore how do you create and organize instructional units to balance these two approaches? Your decisions on what to include/exclude impact the developing identities of the learners in your classroom as well as partially impact the values of our society in the future when these students grow up, live, and vote (or don’t vote). Respond to these probing questions in your responses below. Also respond to one another’s comments to promote peer review and interaction.
Chapin, June R. (2011). A Practical Guide to Middle and Secondary Social Studies, 3rd ed. Boston: Pearson.