Archive for the ‘standards’ Tag

The State of Social Studies in CT

The state of social studies in Connecticut mirrors and amplifies the state of social studies education in the rest of the nation. Some of the major issues include an unapproved, draft curriculum frameworks, no social studies consultant at the Connecticut State Department of Education, and no official position statement from the state at all. This is a dangerous cocktail for apathy. Without these three critical components, Connecticut champions mediocrity when it comes to social studies education. This is especially concerning when you consider that the purpose of social studies is to produced an engaged citizenry endowed with skills such as critical thinking, empathy, and collaboration.

However so much that it seems like the Nutmeg State is disinterested with social studies education, there is hope. First, the state recently convened a committee to craft a curriculum framework based on the recently released College, Career, and Civic Life social studies framework. The forthcoming CT document is slated to put inquiry at the heart of the social studies classroom and provide students with an authentic social studies experience that will benefit them long after they graduate high school. If this committee holds true to their charge, this will be a giant step forward for the state of social studies in the land of steady habits.

Another layer to this silver lining lies with the efforts of the Honorable Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill. Social Studies has a true friend in Secretary Merrill. At a recent Social Studies Conference held at Central Connecticut State University, Merrill touted the importance of Social Studies education and her commitment to a quality social studies education for all of Connecticut’s students. With such an important person in our corner, Connecticut should be able to attain a social studies position statement to guide instruction and policy at all levels, a curriculum framework that promotes purposeful and powerful social studies education within our schools, and a social studies consultant to assist districts and teachers in meeting the demands of the 21st century.

In order to meet this goal, social studies education in Connecticut needs your help. First and foremost, contact Denise Merrill’s office to express your support for purposeful and powerful social studies education. While you are at it, contact your state representative and senator. Then, go to the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies Public Affairs Committee website to sign up for updates and to participate in one thing per month to promote social studies education. Finally, spread the word that we need a better stated of social studies education in Connecticut. Our democracy depends on it.

For your reference:
Office of the Secretary of the State
State of Connecticut
30 Trinity Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Telephone: (860) 509-6200
Twitter: @SOTSMerrill
Email: Denise.Merrill@ct.gov

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Social Studies Standards

The following is a summation of the “History Wars” as described in Nash, Crabtree, and Dunn’s book History On Trial.  Although the book was written over ten years ago, the root of the issue surrounding present day topics such as Texas’ standards, standardized testing, and NCLB.

Summary as follows:

Essentially, the wars that are raging over history being taught in the classroom boil down to two sides of the argument.  On one side are traditionalists that believe that history is based on a set of facts that are not open to new interpretations.  Opposed to the traditionalists are so-called “revisionists” who look at history as an ever evolving practice where new perspectives and interpretations of the past are the basis for sound historical research.  The battle over history education was raging in and around the same time as the controversy surrounding the Enola Gay exhibit.  Overall, the history wars, as described by Pat Buchanan, was a “war for the soul of America.”  History, in many respects, is increasingly controversial because it provides so much of the substance for the way a society defines itself and considers what it wants to be.

The idea of “history-as-facts” is not simply uneducated, it is an ideological position of traditionalists and political Right.  This group believes that particular facts, traditions and heroic personalities untainted by “interpretation” represent the true and objective history that citizens ought to know.  Also, traditionalists are upset because new faces are crowding onto the stage and ruining the security of older versions of the past.  Traditionalists further believe that promotion of fact-history will create loyal, proud Americans.  Many historians, however, believe that interpretation—based on carefully on information sifted from many sources—is the heart of historical inquiry.

The revisionist notion of alternative explanations and multiple perspectives is anathema to the traditionalist history-as-fact, history-as-it-has-always-been school.  Those opposing the traditionalist position believe that exposing grim history is essential to create informed, responsible citizens.  In fact, most critique the past to improve the future.  Revisionism is not new in America as it began shortly after the Revolution.  People debated the character, meaning, and legacy of the independence movement.  Other divisive topics include the Civil War and slavery.  Important works of history and new schools of scholarly inquiry have repeatedly triggered controversy.  As Plato said, “Those who tell the stories also hold the power.”  The dilemma seems to boil down to whether recognizing powerless groups (women, blacks, workers, etc.) is political correctness; or a recognition of the link between a democratic society and a more historically complete and accurate rendering of the past.