Friday, July 09, 2004

My kid brother is going to apply to masters programs in education next year so he can be a social studies teacher. He's working on his statement of purpose, in which talks about how he's interested in social studies pedagogy. That is to say, he wants to study how kids learn and therefore should be taught about history, geography, civics and current events.

This got me to thinking that I had some pretty wacked out assignments in elementary school social studies. I remember doing the following projects:

A lot of this stuff was fun. I like arts and crafts projects as much as the next person. But I honestly don't think it taught me the first thing about history, geography, civics, or current events.

I'm wondering what the point of all of those projects was. It's possible, I suppose, that elementary-school-aged kids just aren't ready, developmentally speaking, to learn about social studies in any real way. But I read historical fiction compulsively at that age: even if I wasn't ready to grapple with the big questions about what drives historical change, I was certainly interested in what life was like for people in the past. And I'm not sure that making a fireplace out of cardboard really answered those questions for me.

In 7th grade, my social studies teacher assigned us to read the front page of the newspaper every day. Each Friday, there was a quiz. Honestly, that's the first social studies assignment I can remember that actually made any sense.

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