Friday, November 21, 2008

Social Studies Left Behind

Our seven year old son is fascinated with the US Presidents. He has researched several presidents on his own, finding out some interesting facts. He asks a lot of questions, recently I was asked "Mommy, why was Bill Clinton impeached?" (I think I'll let daddy handle that one!) My dad was a history teacher, and "Pappy" loves to talk to our son about the presidents.

I am not too thrilled with the curriculum at our son's school. It is clear that the Federal No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) emphasis on reading and math is squeezing social studies out of the curriculum. Our son has had a few civics lessons, and has done a science unit on rocks, but his day is mostly spent doing reading and math. His homework is reading and math worksheets every night. It has become repetitive busy work. I can see a big change in the classroom since I taught art in the district 10 yrs. ago. The teachers seemed to have more freedom to teach creative lessons, they had more time for drama and art projects. Now it seems like there is a standardized curriculum that all teachers must follow.

I believe that a good social studies curriculum can integrate literacy skills. I have written about how a good arts program integrates reading and math skills too. Teaching "across the curriculum" makes learning more meaningful to students, and increases their motivation to learn, and it connects learning to real life.

Here's why I think Social Studies/History is so important:

1. Boys are usually more interested in non-fiction, and will be motivated to read.

2. Social Studies teaches kids to see from many different perspectives, to better understand diversity.

3. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are encouraged. And kids will need these skills to make it in this "techno" world.

4. Students are engaged in the learning process rather than just completing tasks to improve test scores.

5. Teaches kids to become engaged citizens who understand how our country works. Democracy works best when citizens are able to think freely. That's why they call it a "liberal arts education."

Can you name the president pictured?
(Hint: he is considered one of the worst US Presidents and is the only president from the state of New Hampshire)