K-8 Social Science for the 21st Century
Are you ready to think fresh about how we might conceptualize teaching Social Science to our students that will help them live, work, play and thrive in the 21st century? Get ready for a ride. This series of presentations was made to the Social Science Content and Assessment Panel for the state of Oregon a few years ago, and it surely rocked the boat. Let's remember that we need to provide students with tools for THEM to live in a global society and not just what we learned when we went to school. Most social science curriculum these days cover 90-95% of past concepts and projects 5-10% for future problem-solving. Isn't there something wrong here? Buckle your seat belts.
After two world wars, and the creation of the United Nations Organization, there have been many attempts at laying down the contractual framework for what appears to be a painfully emerging global society. By bringing together political, scientific, and socio-economic representatives from around the world to consult on increasingly relevant and urgent issues to the earth’s population (e.g. Rio Earth Summit, Socio-Economic Sustainability Conference in Copenhagen, Women’s Conference in Beijing, to name a few), a heightened awareness of our interdependence has become a platform from which to attempt to solve today’s complex problems. Yet, with all the reactive energies expended out of need, little has been done to proactively consider how we must prepare future generations for living, working, and thriving in an inexorably evolving global society - a future condition in which they are the protagonists.
For twenty-five years, the author has lived, worked and raised a family outside of the United States and participated in numerous international conferences and conventions in Central and South America, Europe and the Middle East. During that time, experience as an international educator and administrator led to an awareness of the need for foundational social and emotional skills and capacities in order to truly capture the spirit of living and learning in a world community. In attempting to analyze where to begin, traditional educational curriculum frameworks seemed to be lacking both the focus and the tools in order to meet such needs, yet the area of the social sciences seemed to be a good place to start. This led to the informational research undertaken for the current work as well as by simulation through the creation of a private educational facility which had as one of its core principles, the oneness of humankind.
After five years, the findings and implications far surpassed the intended original outcomes. In order to educate for transition toward a global society, there appears to be the need for an entirely new and inverse approach towards developing a curriculum for the social sciences - an approach which the writer has termed outside-in. The curriculum framework and proposed K-8 scope and sequence is based, therefore, on the premise that first and foremost we are all human beings, and that a wider loyalty exists to our species as a result of that predominant commonality. In other words, the unity of the species becomes the foundation for the study of the social sciences, the oneness of humankind becomes a given, and the diversity of its component parts are accidental and secondary but at the same time an enriching and colorful phenomena. Perhaps a good example to succinctly explain this in practical terms within the context of the culture of the United States, would be to claim that black history is part of our history, not theirs, and that we are only now talking and learning about what we have been deprived over the last century.
The implications of the application of such an educational concept are many, the greatest of which is the way in which the young generation of a particular societal culture views itself within the context of its global neighborhood. The spectrum of decision-making is broadened and the playing field is the earth itself. As we live and serve under such a paradigm, we truly become active parts of a whole the outcome of which essentially benefits us all, with far greater significance than any one of us could accomplish alone.