A recent CNN article highlights the struggles of social studies teachers dealing with convoluted expectations and insufficient classtime.
“In the 1860’s, the United States was caught up in the Civil War. The 1960’s are remembered for social revolution, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Beatlemania.
But high school teacher Davide Plonski notices that some students have a weak sense of time, are unable to picture the different characteristic of these eras and often confuse events a century apart.”
Teachers blame a slew of factors – less time spent on social studies at the elementary level, technological distractions, and lack of required history testing under NCLB. Whatever the case, teachers see a startling lack of historical literacy among their students, who can point to a Declaration of Independence but don’t recognize its significance.
“In a lot of districts, social studies and science have been removed from the curriculum, per se, because of math and language arts testing,” says a Wyoming elementary school teacher.
It’s encouraging to see teachers work to counteract this trend: Elementary teachers use social studies texts as “informational texts,” fitting them into their language arts curricula. High school teachers sift through the disjointed details required by their standards to help their students see history in context.
Once again, teachers have it right. But, I wonder, is their battle winnable? Are they fighting an impossible fight against an increasingly basic-skills-obsessed education system?