Monday, February 14, 2011

What Are We Learning in Social Studies This Week?

This week in many schools most students will sit in two or three or maybe even five social studies classes. What will they be studying? U.S. History? Ancient civilizations? The Western World?

Last week the entire world witnessed history unfold in real time as the thirty-year "emergency" rule of Hosni Mubarak came to an end in Egypt. Those seeking reform were unswayed by promises of accommodations and concessions. They wanted democracy starting now and, although the Egyptian people have a long way to go, they are on a path toward greater freedom and liberty.

There are social studies lessons here for every grade level--from the simple lesson of people wanting to have a say in their government, to the critical role of the military in revolutions, to the complexities of international relationships and how they effect internal affairs. That the Egyptian demonstrators used FaceBook to organize is a lesson in how technology is playing a role in important social movements.

The question is whether Egypt will be studied this week for any other reason than a coincidence of current events with a chapter on the Pyramids? What a crime it would be if students in the United States were robbed of the opportunity to learn from living history because it is not in the book or because it won't be on the test. The tyranny of an increasingly standardized curriculum, in part, is causing a lack of relevance in our school systems. When teachers are not free to seize a "teachable moment" of this magnitude and relevance, the system proves as stubborn as Mr. Mubarak did last week. Our students are already using social networks to rebel. What will you teach this week?

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