Social studies education develops right from kindergarten and into high school to help students understand their place in the world. Social Studies teaches children their roles and responsibilities particularly in relation to social and civic affairs. It helps students develop critical thinking abilities, prepares them to participate competently and productively as concerned citizens and teaches them to address societal and global concerns using literature, technology and other identifiable community resources. Social studies include history, geography, political science, sociology, economics and civics and it is an integral part in ensuring well-rounded education in the K-12 curriculum.
The National Council for the Social Studies defines the subject as the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Social studies educates students on citizenship, providing them with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will help them to become competent and responsible citizens who are informed, thoughtful, participate in their community and exhibit moral and civic virtues. For example, students learn about voting as a form of political participation, and how they can exercise their right to vote in elections to choose the leaders that they want.
Social studies education teaches students about history and enables them to understand how society has evolved. It places a strong emphasis on important and enduring ideas, events and personalities that affect peoples’ lives. From these lessons, students are able to learn about their place in the living history of the United States and to establish a foundation for their future ideas. The subject not only offers students a strong knowledge content base, but it also helps them develop an ability to think critically about societal issues and learn how to address them based on their understanding of social values.
The subject also includes the study of the interrelationship among people, as well as the relationship between them and their environment. This allows students to develop an understanding of society and the human condition. Social studies education creates awareness in students of the diversity and interdependence of the world and helps them to recognize the challenges and benefits of living in a world with multiple cultures and ideologies. For example, learning about the multi-cultural American society helps students understand democracy, rights and freedoms and the need to balance the various values, cultures and ideologies to have a balanced and peaceful co-existence.
Social studies involves a number of subjects including history, geography and economics. Students learn how to integrate ideas from different disciplines to come up with reasoned decisions, and to make the connections between related concepts and ideas so that they are better able to identify problems affecting society. For example, investigating poverty in society requires knowledge in history, economics and politics. Students have to make the connection between ideas such as discrimination, resource allocation and political priorities to make sense of how poverty affects certain populations in the country.
- National Council For Social Studies: A Vision of Powerful Teaching and Learning in the Social Studies: Building Social Understanding and Civic Efficacy
- Idaho State Department of Education: Social Studies
- State of Washington-Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction: Social Studies In Washington State
- Illinois State Board of Education: Illinois Learning Standards-Social Science
Maria OCadiz has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in Education. She is a former university professor, curriculum facilitator and teacher.