This week’s post comes from Thomas Fulbright, current KCSS president and history teacher at Hope Street Academy, a public charter school in Topeka since 2008. Thomas intends “to spend my entire life convincing them how exciting and important history is.” His bio picture is daughter Claire and Thomas meeting President Lincoln.
This past July, I attended a Library of Congress Primary Source Summit hosted by the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies. We covered a number of topics beyond just social studies pedagogy with a focus on the use of primary sources. By the end of the summit I was feeling good about the State of the Social Studies in Kansas, and in addition, reinvigorated in my personal purpose for teaching social studies. Let me tell you why & hopefully you will feel the same way (sorry you couldn’t come with me to Minnesota).
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? I mean . . . engaged, civil, informed, educated, and competent. That’s a mouthful. And do we seriously need to kids who exhibit ALL of those traits? Can’t we just be happy with educated? I lecture, students take some notes, I grade a quiz. Boom, done. Everybody’s happy,
Mmm . . . yeah, not so much. I know I’m preaching to the choir here but no. Educated is not enough. A quote often attributed to Haim Ginott makes clear the importance of teaching more than the three Rs:
I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness; Gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians, infants killed by trained nurses, women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.
So, I am suspicious of education.
My request – help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.“
I’m not equating the situations most of us find ourselves in to the world of 1930s and 1040s Nazi Germany. Clearly not the same.
But I do think we’ve failed to focus on skills that our K-12 kids need to support a vibrant, inclusive, open, accessible, and empathetic democracy. Too often we concentrate on producing great test takers but not on creating citizens that can listen to others, evaluate arguments, use evidence to make claims, and respect differing viewpoints. Citizens who can exchange honest, well-reasoned views on controversial topics. Citizens who see the value of diversity, of openness to others, of being part of something bigger than themselves.
All skills that can help transform our kids into people that other people like having around.
But finding ways to balance the 3Rs and citizenship skills can be hard. That kind of instruction requires more than lecture, notes, and a quiz on Friday.
A major first step in the process is to actually decide that teaching these skills is important. Kansas has stepped up and defined a successful high school graduate as having
the academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skills, employability
skills, and civic engagement to be successful in postsecondary education, in the attainment of an industry recognized certification or in the workforce, without the need for remediation.
And I know other states and school districts are creating similar mission statements. These statements are important, they set a direction. But teachers like you still have to make it happen.
Planning is underway for the 2019 Kansas Social Studies Conference!
We hope that social studies teachers currently part of the profession, pre-service teachers planning to enter the profession, and vendors passionate about supporting the profession will all join us at Newman University October 20-21 for two exciting days of networking, collaborating, and learning from one another.
This year we will be joined by keynote speaker Dr. John Fea, Professor of American History at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Fea will be speaking about his 2013 book Why Study History? and sharing how reflecting on contemporary life from a historical perspective helps us better understand ourselves and the world around us.
Have something that would be great to share with other educators? Please submit a proposal for a breakout session! The deadline has been extended to make sure we don’t miss any great opportunities to see what you’re doing in the classroom.
Find out more and register for the conference here.
Several weeks ago, I had the chance to work with a group of high school teachers as we brainstormed new Inquiry Design Models. Any time I get the chance to spend time with a bunch of other social studies teachers, not much can ruin the day. Seriously . . . a whole day talking, sharing, playing with, and exploring the best social studies tools, resources, and strategies?
And during our time together we messed around with a tool that I had almost forgotten about.
The Pie Chart.
The Pie Chart is a powerful graphic organizer / writing scaffold / assessment tool / Swiss army knife. It does it all and is drop dead simple. I first learned about the Pie almost a decade ago from social studies super star Nathan McAlister.
Nate was part of our Teaching American History grant as the summer seminar master teacher and used the Pie Chart as a hook activity to kick start a conversation about the causes of the Civil War.