Robert Siegel

College/University Professor

Philomath, OR

Interests: 21st century learning,...

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K-8 SocSci Curric for 21st Cent-Part 3

K-8 Social Science Curriculum for the 21st Century - Part 3

This is a series of posts on the topic of how we might re-think the social sciences as we move tumultuously toward humankind's evolution becoming one common family on this interconnected and interdependent planet.

In this blog, we will explore more definitions that will be used throughout our discussion.

            Global Understanding.  The most finely-tuned and holistic definition I have found so far of global understanding which goes beyond the “classical” and in my opinion simplistic interpretation of the “learning about cultures different than our own” is found in a work by Charlotte Anderson entitled Global Understandings: A Framework for Teaching and Learning: “The realities of a globally interrelated and culturally diverse world of the 21st century require an education for all students that will enable them to see themselves as human beings whose home is planet earth, who are citizens of a multicultural society living in an increasingly interrelated world and who learn, care, think, and act to celebrate life on this planet and to meet the global challenges confronting humankind.” (Anderson 1994, p. 5). A student who has received the above message through a systematic sequence of strategically design learning, caring, thinking, choosing and acting outcomes will surely be better prepared for global understanding.

            Unity in Diversity.  In order to better grasp the concept of the unity of the human species as the underlying goal of a global society, it is imperative to distinguish between unity and uniformity.  The oneness of our home planet was perhaps engrained in our consciousness most graphically after the space flights in the early 1960s which “enabled human beings for the first time to actually look at our planet from outer space and perceive it as an integrated whole,” which “was a profound spiritual experience that forever changed their relationship to the Earth.” (Capra 1996, p. 100).  Now, this “discovery of the interdependent wholeness of our planet must be accompanied by the recognition of the interdependent wholeness of humanity.” (Muller 1993, p. 35). While we seem to be struggling between two apparently opposing forces, that which unites and that which divides or differentiates, we have the potential of manifesting “the fullest response to others of which humans are capable,” appreciating, as educator Alfie Kohn proposes in his work The Brighter Side of Human Nature, on the one hand “the other’s otherness” while on the other, “the humanness that we have in common.” (Kohn 1990, p. 99).  The "Us and Them" syndrome continuous pervades our curricula, and the sooner we eliminate these outworn shibboleths which as Yong Zhao states "merely serve as constantly evolving containers", the better. Therefore, it is the belief of the writer that through a systemic and updated educational process, “[humankind] might then see that the centripetal force of their common universal human nature is far stronger than the centrifugal force of their different ideologies and racial-cultural patterns.” (Lawson 1969, p. 17).  This balancing act is what we shall term achieving unity in diversity.

            Wholistic Education (or Holistic Education).  Nearly all of the recent education researchers who delve into the arena of learning and knowledge seem to agree with the need to see learning from a holistic viewpoint, integrating the social and the emotional aspects of a person’s disposition toward learning - their motivation for learning - beyond expecting results solely on intellectual capacity; that “for children to become knowledgeable, they must be ready and motivated to learn, and capable of integrating new information into their lives.” (Elias 1997, p.1)  It is the “integration of intellectual, social and emotional aspects of ... student learning.” (Cove 1996).   Holistic education has been given greater relevance due to the impact on learning of the emotional capacities of individuals.   It has even been considered a form of intelligence which may be a key to the successful development of lifelong learning as researched and documented by Daniel Goleman (Goleman 1997) and numerous brain researchers over the last 20 years who have even gone so far as to elevate emotional intelligence to an essential element for creating meaning and driving attention. (Jensen 1998, p.72). Beyond integrated education which “cuts across subject-matter lines, bringing together various aspects of the curriculum into meaningful association to focus upon broad areas of study,” (Shoemaker 1989) holistic education addresses the whole learner. ASCD's Whole Child Initiative is the latest iteration of a positive campaign toward consensus about this topic (see

           Global Education.  Because the term “global” can mean “comprehensive” (especially when translated into other languages), in the English language it is secondary, according to the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, to its first definition of “pertaining to or involving the whole world”.  The latter being considered, when we refer to global education in these discussions, we are referring to that process which “develops the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are the basis for decision making and participation in a world characterized by cultural pluralism, interconnectedness” and international economic dependencies. (Merryfield 1995) Oftentimes referred to as a global multicultural curriculum because “it is intended to deliver the knowledge, skills and attitudes to empower students to active citizenship of their own community, their nation and the world,” and “it is in its very essence an active curriculum,” which should have action outcomes imbedded into its assessment strategies. (Lynch 1989 p. 50). As opposed to “world studies” which tends to be viewed as an additional subject area within the curriculum, in its broadest sense, “global education is also seen as a whole curriculum strategy, permeating and adding to the existing parameters, not only of individual subjects but in a holistic way across all the school-organized learning experience of the student.” (Lynch, P. xvi)

More definitions will be forthcoming in the next part of the blog.

Anderson, Charlotte C. (1994). Global Understandings: A Framework for Teaching and Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Capra, Fritzof (1996). The Web of Life. New York: Bantam-Doubleday.

Cove, Patrick G. and Anne Goodsell Love (1996). Enhancing Student Learning: Intellectual, Social and Emotional Learning. ERIC Digest ED400741.

Elias, Marice and others (1997). Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Goleman, Daniel (1997). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Jensen, Eric (1998). Teaching With the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Kohn, Alfie (1990). The Brighter Side of Human Nature. New York: BasicBooks (Division of HarperCollins)

Lynch, James (1989). Multicultural Education in a Global Society. London: The Falmer Press.

Merryfield, Merry (1995). Teacher Education in Global and International Education. Washington, DC: ERIC ED384601

Muller, Robert (1993). New Genesis: Shaping Global Spirituality. Anacortes, WA: World Happiness and Cooperation.

Seminars. Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Education.

Shoemaker, Betty Jean Eklund (1989). Integrative Education: A Curriculum for the Twenty-First Century. OSSC Bulletin 33,2. Eugene, OR: Oregon School Study Council, ERIC Digest ED 311602 89.

Zhao, Yong (2009). Catching Up or Leading the Way. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. p. 171-173.

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