Social Studies teachers often say that our goal is to create involved citizens for the betterment of our future society. Do we? I find that much of our teaching (especially at the end of the year) is getting through a list of expectations that we cross off as we go. What and how do we need to teach to make students better citizens?
It is NOT achieved by having students memorize history facts to be forgotten soon after (What did you learn in 8th grade Social Studies?).
I went to a county-wide Social Studies meeting today to discuss the impact of C3 on the future of Social Studies. It was great to see that many other teachers are as excited, confused, and overwhelmed as I am about the changes being made in our field.
Most of the apprehension surrounding the C3 is that it is "more stuff to teach"! Teachers feel that we already have the the curriculum we need in the Michigan has the Grade Level Content Expectations. "What do we do with those? It is already too much!"
The C3 is not "more" if you are teaching Social Studies correctly. Content expectations remain, but the students are asked to be more engaged with what they are learning. It actually frees the teacher from a long list of content expectations and lets you dig deeper and make connections to their life. Social Studies becomes more than History. Civics, Economics, and Geography are given equal footing which allows us to connect current issues into the class.
That is the trick for engaging students and getting them to care. Most of the C3 can be taught through current events. Students are interested in what is happening in the world. They just need to learn about it. There is a civil war going on right now, new constitutions being written, economies crumbling, huge elections, natural disasters, unsolved mysteries, and world leaders resigning and/or being removed from office. Once they learn about these events, our elections, and economy become more interesting to them. Our role in these events are questioned. Should we get involved in these world events? Have we in the past? Was it successful? What can be learned from the past to help us make decisions about today? Isn't that what it is all about?
I think what is written in the C3 says it best:
Now more than ever, students need the intellectual power to recognize societal problems; ask good questions and develop robust investigations into them; consider possible solutions and consequences; separate evidence-based claims from parochial opinions; and communicate and act upon what they learn. And most importantly, they must possess the capability and commitment to repeat that process as long as is necessary. Young people need strong tools for, and methods of, clear and disciplined thinking in order to traverse successfully the worlds of college, career, and civic life.
Teachers read this and nod, but do we really do what is necessary to make this happen for students? We can't just wish it will happen for our students. It requires passion from the teacher on a daily basis, not worksheets to be used and forgotten. The C3 can help teachers achieve what we say are desired results. It's worth the effort.