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Goals of the Social Studies (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Barth (1993) has said that one of our most basic beliefs is that "Social Studies is citizenship education." Hartoonan (1993) has added that "our work should be to illuminate the essential connection between social studies learning and democratic values" and thus be a "liberating force in the lives of citizens." Put another way, the two primary jobs of schools are to help the society by producing effective, contributing citizens and to help the children lead happy lives in which they are enabled to achieve their potential. That is what the social studies are all about, and it is also why they are so needed in the elementary school.

Though social studies specialists disagree as to priorities, the following list identifies those purposes that are most often associated with social studies programs:

  • Preparing responsible citizens for the nation, the state, and the local area.
  • Preparing students who have the knowledge and skills in social studies needed for college.
  • Developing awareness and understanding of contemporary social issues.
  • Developing healthy self-concepts.
  • Teaching the methods of social scientists.
  • Motivating students to want to learn about the social studies.
  • Developing the ability to solve problems and make decisions.
  • Dveloping "global" citizens with a world vision.

Whatever we do as teachers is certainly done for the present, but it has to be done with an eye to the future.

In trying to help you become good social studies teachers, or good teachers of anything for that matter, it is important to get you to look at what happens if you succeed as teachers. The children you teach will, in due course, become adults themselves. They will obviously be living in a different kind of society, one that teachers must try to anticipate and prepare them for. But, beyond that, the kind of impact that teachers will have had on them and the kind of people they become are critical outcomes of education. Following are just a few of the areas where we, as teachers of elementary social studies, will have had an impact when the children we teach become adults:

  • The jobs they have and the way they do their jobs
  • The way they feel about themselves
  • The way they handle responsibility
  • The way they treat other people
  • How they meet and resolve problems and difficulties
  • Their motivation and overall attitudes
  • What they value and how they treat the things they value
  • How they relate to their heritage
  • How they relate to their environment
  • How they relate to and deal with people of other cultures, nationalities, and ethnic groups

In each of these and in other areas where teachers influence children, I think that it is safe to say that most of us would happily accept a broad variety of outcomes and still feel that we had been a positive force. The question is, "Just how much in each area can we expect of ourselves?" That is not a question that can be left unanswered. I like the analogy of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It is always easier to do if we have a picture of what it is going to look like when we get it all together. The same holds true for teaching. From an attitudinal standpoint, I have always found it useful to envision my students 10 or 15 years into the future, and imagine them in the most positive light I can. It gives me an idea of what I am working for.

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