The Value of United States History in the Social Studies Curriculum
Date of Award
Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
Dr. A. Tufano
Many teachers and administrators feel that the basic "R"s are the foundation of learning - without reading, writing, and arithmetic, a child can never become knowledgable [sic]. What about the child who wants to read a map while riding out of town, who never received this skill in school? How does an adult explain to a child the qualities of a living hero when the child doesn't understand those of the heroes of history? Is it appropriate for a teacher to assume there will be no future politician in her class and therefore,to [sic] begin a writing lesson instead of a lesson on the three branches of government? Social studies, especially the study of United States history, has long been regarded as necessary in our school systems. Educators have been studying new and innovative methods of stimulating interest in the subject long before the 1960's but they always seem to retreat to lectures, memorization of facts, essay exams, and reiteration of concepts. Inquiry-oriented skill development, emphasis on affective type goals, value clarification, the present-to-past approach to the study of history, and the past-to-present approach have all been studied and analysized [sic] and grant money has been awarded to prove the value of United States history in our schools. It was only until recently that social studies was regarded as a fourth requirement in our educational system. What, then, caused the change? Recently,the [sic] school systems have been required to test the third, fifth, and ninth graders on their general academic proficiency. These tests include intelligence, achievement, and aptitude tests which are distributed and completed townwide, statewide, and nationally. Each test is studied individually and as a group to compare the results with established standards. Education, economy, and geography effected the test results and frequently made a comparison inappropiate [sic]. City newspaper headlines often read, "Many fifth graders reading on third grade level." or "Fifty per cent of fifth grade students lack basic math skills needed for Life." What is the reaction? Give more time to those basic skills which the fifth graders need. The problem occurs when the required school day allots an unwavering 350 minutes each day to teach. If more time is to be spent in reading, writing, and arithmetic, then less time must be spent in other areas such as social studies, physical education, music, art, science, and health. Yes, the test scores will be improved in reading and math, but eventually the students will show noticable [sic] weaknesses in their life skills. Should the school system be allowed to decide that education in morals, decision-making, government, foreign affairs, and patriotism is less important than that of phonics, addition, fractions, and questioning techniques? All skills carry appropriate importance in the realm of the children's world but the integration into the schedule bears investigation. It is my purpose, through this paper, to show the importance of all these skills and the method of integrating them into the standard school day. By introducing an interdisciplinary social study curriculum, the basic skills of reading and arithmetic can be taught through the varied use of the social studies curriculum. Skills such as map reading, economics, ecology, location arid acquiring information, critical thinking, communication and many others are as much a part of reading and arithmetic as they are of the social studies curriculum. As Franklin Roosevelt expressed so well, "The only tiding to fear is fear itself." It also holds true among teachers. If teachers could become less fearful of varied topics and methods in the social studies curriculum, a more rounded education would develop. Through educating teachers and others first, the education of the children will follow.
Mandell, Eileen, "The Value of United States History in the Social Studies Curriculum" (1982). Master of Teaching. 4.