In the first chapter of Instructional Strategies for Middle and Secondary Social Studies Bruce E. Larson and Timothy A. Keiper build upon the topic of the nature of social studies that I discussed last week in my blog. The chapter first discusses social studies in a theoretical or abstract sense and then delves into more practical aspects of social studies and what makes the discipline the way it currently is. Broadly, the authors concur with what I said last week, that social studies both prepares students for citizenship and equips them with abilities that will help them make informed decisions as citizens. As future social studies teachers we much understand that students will not only learn content in our course, they will also learn skills and dispositions that will help them in their own lives and in being a member of a democracy.
When I think of my job as a social studies teacher in this way I think of a mountain, for the purposes of this metaphor I’ll use a picture of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. At the top of the mountain is knowledge, the content of the class. Up here is the formal and delivered curriculum that I will teach that includes syllabi, lesson plans, classroom activates, and standards. But below that is the vast bulk of the mountain that includes skills and dispositions. Those include the skill of research, the ability to use evidence to support conclusions, or the disposition of community service. Without the skills and dispositions at the bottom of the mountain (these will continually be built), the knowledge located at the top of the mountain is largely meaningless.
To extend the mountain metaphor to practical components of social studies, Larson and Keiper also discuss the different actors that have a stake in crating the social studies and curricula. The top of Mount Washington represents national stakeholders in education. This includes entities like the Department of Education, Congress, and national standards created by organizations like the NCSS. The middle portion of the mountain represents stakeholders on the state level that includes state standards, governors, and state legislatures. Finally, the bottom of the mountain represents local stakeholders that includes school boards, district and departmental plans, teachers, parents, students, and school administrators. All of these stakeholders play a part in crafting social studies and all of them will be present in crafting curricula either directly or indirectly.