Leaving aside the fact that social studies is the ultimate “student empowerment” course, the fact is that social studies, properly taught, is akin to storytelling. It is drama, it is soap opera, it is a passion play, it is conflict, it is the story of life itself.
Part of the problem is the lack of teachers with degrees in social studies fields like history, international relations, economics, and pre-law to name a few. Often times social studies is in fact a dumping ground for “coaches that teach,” and I also suspect that social studies teachers are most often not only those with education degrees but those with a lower GPA than other education majors.
But by far the greatest problem are the core content curriculum requirements, requirements that aren’t even assessed with a subject test as part of the HSPA. If we don’t hold the teachers accountable, then why are we bothering to mandate what they teach?
There are definitely items that I believe every graduating student should know in the “field” of social studies, but these items are fundamentally different than what NJ currently requires.
So let us please make every effort to make social studies less boring. Let’s hire teachers with expertise in their subject areas, lets liberate their classes from irrelevant State mandates, and let us refocus social studies on those things that all high school students truly need to know to meet the demands of a market economy and republican form of government. Let our teachers have some fun, and I have no doubt our students will too!