ERIC Identifier: ED329484
Publication Date: 1990-11-00
Author: Mullins, Sandra L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science
Education Bloomington IN.
Social Studies for the 21st Century: Recommendations
of the National Commission on Social Studies in the Schools. ERIC Digest.
The National Commission on Social Studies in the Schools was formed
in 1987 by the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical
Association, and the National Council for the Social Studies to study the
state of social studies in the schools and to make recommendations for
curricular change. The Commission's curriculum report, CHARTING A COURSE:
SOCIAL STUDIES FOR THE 21st CENTURY (1989), is based on an exhaustive examination
of the social studies curriculum in the past and present. This ERIC Digest
summarizes the essential elements of the Commission's curriculum report
on (1) goals and general recommendations for the social studies, (2) curriculum
recommendations for grades K-6, (3) curriculum recommendations for grades
7-12, and (4) recommendations about teaching strategies.
GOALS AND GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE SOCIAL STUDIES
The Commission's Curriculum Task Force (1989) recommends the following
goals for social studies education: (1) development of civic responsibility
and citizen participation; (2) development of a global perspective through
an understanding of students' life experiences as part of the total human
experience, past and present; (3) development of "critical understanding"
of the history, geography, and the pluralistic nature of the civil institutions
of the United States; (4) development of a multicultural perspective on
the world's peoples through an understanding of their differences and commonalities
throughout time and place, and (5) development of students' capacities
for critical thinking about "the human condition."
In line with these five goals, the Curriculum Task Force emphasized
the following characteristics of content in the social studies:
*History and geography should be the unifying core of the social studies
curriculum and should be integrated with concepts from economics, political
science, and other social sciences.
*Social studies should be taught and learned consistently and cumulatively
from kindergarten through grade 12.
*The curriculum should impart skills and knowledge necessary for effective
citizenship in a democracy.
*The curriculum should balance study of the United States with studies
of other cultures.
*Superficial coverage of content should be replaced with in-depth study
of selected topics.
CURRICULUM RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GRADES K-6
The organizing matrix for the K-3 program is time and place with concepts
from the social sciences woven into the curriculum. The traditional expanding
environments program has been modified in favor of a comparative global
approach. The Task Force advised that the time for social studies instruction
during the early years should be found through integrating the social studies
materials with reading and mathematics instruction.
The kindergarten program should revolve around a comparative study of
families at home and around the globe. By widening the scope of the curriculum
to families throughout the world, children gain an international perspective.
Understandings about the social rules that govern family life and how families
interact with their environment can increase the student's knowledge about
him/herself, improve social interaction skills, and develop decision-making
and participation skills.
In the first grade, the program should be expanded to include the community,
and the structures and workings of social and political groups. Students
learn the ways in which people organize social, political, and economic
institutions to meet the human needs for affection, protection from danger,
and the production and dissemination of goods.
Grades two and three should focus on a broad study of societies in the
United States and around the globe. The teacher should select key figures,
heroes, holidays, and cultural symbols from different societies, past and
present, to provide in-depth study of those societies. The Task Force maintains
that basic concepts of the social sciences, such as change, location, diversity,
justice, power, and trade-offs, can be introduced effectively through concrete
applications during the second and third grades.
The Curriculum Task Force recommends that United States history, world
history, and geography--both physical and cultural--should be taught in
grades 4-6, with much of the content also drawn from the social sciences,
especially political science, economics, and anthropology. United States
history should cover the period from colonial beginnings to the present,
with topics selected for in-depth study. An introduction to the basic documents
of United States government, especially the Declaration of Independence,
the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and the central concepts of democracy--personal
freedom, equality, participation of the governed in government--need to
be taught in this course. The world history course should focus on the
major economic, social, and political trends throughout history. The study
of physical and cultural geography should introduce students to the world's
climate, topography, soils, and water resources and to various aspects
of human interactions with the natural environment.
CURRICULUM RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GRADES 7-12
Grade seven is the recommended level for a study of the local community,
including the history of the school district. Through a microscopic look
at the local community, students can begin to understand the human interactions
that take place within a social system, and the relationship of the local
community to the state, nation, and world. Students should begin to gain
skills and knowledge for effective, active citizenship, and they should
gain an understanding that a thorough knowledge of public issues is necessary
for active citizenship. State history and geography can be taught along
with the study of the local community.
A study of United States history is recommended for grade eight. This
course should stress the political and economic development of the United
States and its relationship with the rest of the world. A study of how
the social and economic changes of the 19th and 20th century shaped the
United States Constitution will give students a greater understanding of
the political process. A comparative study of capitalism, socialism, and
communism through an examination of selective case studies of different
kinds of economic systems should take place. Concepts from economics, government
or political science, and the behavioral sciences should be integrated
into this study.
For grades 9-11, a three-year sequence of world history and American
history is recommended. The Task Force pointed out that a study of United
States history within the context of world history will help students make
the important linkages between events on the national and world stage,
and provide them with a global perspective. If a separate course for United
States history is required by state law, the teacher can establish a specific
time frame for that purpose. Although there are not yet appropriate textbook
materials for such a course sequence, teachers could combine the use of
their present world history and United States history textbooks, and use
Grade nine would start the three-year sequence with a study of world
and American history and geography to 1750. This course should focus on
the history and geography of the major civilizations beginning with hunting
and gathering societies. The instructional approach should be to compare
the different civilizations by selecting particular themes such as technological
innovations or economic and social developments. The consequences of the
cultural contact between the Old and New Worlds after Columbus' voyages
should be explored. A specific time frame should be established for teaching
about the colonial history and geography of the United States.
Grade 10 continues the three-year sequence with studies of world and
United States history and geography from 1750 to 1900. This course should
focus on the transformation of modern times by the democratic, industrial,
and technological revolutions and the effects of population growth and
movement. The teacher should attempt to show how the pivotal movements
of the modern world interacted. Careful study should be given to the conception
and growth of political democracy and to the difficulties inherent in maintaining
a government based on popular will.
The study of United States and world history culminates in grade 11.
The main themes for 20th-century study are (1) the worldwide spread of
democracy; (2) the industrial-technological revolution; and (3) the demographic
shifts that resulted from improved health care, transportation, and changed
Government and economics are taught at the 12th grade level, and they
can be combined into one course or taught separately. The American government
course should include an analysis of the founding documents of United States
government--the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution,
the Bill of Rights, and "The Federalist Papers." A comparative look at
the worlds' competing political and economic systems should be included
in this course.
The theme of the economics course ought to be the different ways that
humans have organized markets for services and products throughout the
world and in different time periods. Attention should be given to how people
have decided what should be produced, in what way, and who should receive
the finished product. If the government and economics course are combined
at the senior level, students could examine the relationships and interactions
between the political and economic systems throughout time and space.
Although the primary focus of the curriculum report is on content--scope,
selection, content priorities, and sequence--it is also clear that the
Curriculum Task Force envisions a social studies curriculum that would
be taught in an exciting way to promote the development of critical thinking
and problem-solving skills that are essential for democratic participation.
The first priority is in-depth study of selected topics to replace mere
"coverage" of content. The passive transmission of facts is rejected as
an inappropriate method of teaching that should be modified in favor of
active approaches to learning. Students are to engage in reading, writing,
observing, debating, role play, simulations, and the use of statistical
data to develop skills in critical thinking, decision making, and problem
solving. Cooperative and collaborative types of learning are also emphasized.
The Curriculum Task Force suggests that a rich variety of materials
should be included in teaching and learning such as original sources, literature,
films, television, artifacts, photographs, historical maps, computers,
and courseware. They also point out that teachers need administrative support
and ample time both for in-service training to implement new teaching strategies
and for planning their courses of study.
In K-3 grades, it is suggested that field trips, films, songs, and stories
should be used to capture and keep the attention of the young. As history
is introduced at an earlier grade level, it is recommended that time and
place should be integrated into the curriculum by locating new experiences
in space, with the use of maps and globes, and in time, by using time lines
measured in terms of "grandfathers." The value of the pedagogical principle
of teaching back and forth from the familiar to the new and back to the
familiar in the early years is recognized.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of resources includes references used to prepare
this Digest and a list of related social studies reform literature. The
items followed by an ED number are in the ERIC system and are available
in microfiche and paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service
(EDRS). For information about prices, contact EDRS, 3900 Wheeler Avenue,
Alexandria, Virginia 22304; telephone numbers are 703-823-0500 and 800-227-3742.
Entries followed by an EJ number are annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX
TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), which is available in most libraries.
EJ documents are not available through EDRS; however, they can be located
in the journal section of most libraries by using the bibliographic information
Bradley Commission on History in Schools. Building a History Curriculum:
Guidelines for Teaching History in Schools. Washington, DC: Educational
Excellence Network, 1988. ED 310 008.
Curriculum Task Force of the National Commission on Social Studies in
the Schools. Charting a Course: Social Studies for the 21st Century. Washington,
DC: National Commission on Social Studies in the Schools, 1989. ED 317
Gagnon, Paul. Democracy's Half-Told Story. What American History Textbooks
Should Add. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers, 1989. ED 313
Gagnon, Paul. Democracy's Untold Story: What World History Textbooks
Neglect. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers, 1987. ED 313
History-Social Science Curriculum Framework and Criteria Committee.
History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools. Sacramento:
California State Department of Education, 1988. ED 293 779.
Joint Committee on Geographic Education of the National Council for
Geographic Education and Association of American Geographers. Guidelines
for Geographic Education: Elementary and Secondary Schools. Washington,
DC: The Association of American Geographers, 1984. ED 252 453.
Palmer, Jesse. "Challenging the Expanding Environment Model of Teaching
Elementary Social Studies." Southern Social Studies Quarterly, 15 (Fall
1989): 17-28. EJ 401 459.
Patrick, John J. "The Bradley Commission in the Context of 1980s Curriculum
Reform in the Social Studies." History Teacher, 23 (November 1989): 37-48.
EJ number to be assigned.
Walstad, William B. Economic Literacy in the Schools. New York: Joint
Council on Economic Education, 1988. ED 310 054.