What Is Social Studies Education?


Social studies education focuses on teaching children about their world so they can establish their own views about society and culture. Learning about their own and different cultures gives children a well-rounded view of the world.

National Council for the Social Studies

  • The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) defines social studies education as a methodology drawing upon many disciplines, including "anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences."

    Within each grade level in a K-12 school system, national and state standards determine what students should learn from social studies courses. Each teacher uses his or her professional background to integrate many subjects into preparing students to interact in the broader society.

Teaching Elementary Social studies

  • James Duplass, author of "Teaching Elementary Social Studies," describes social studies teaching as a way of encouraging students to draw upon their own experiences. Through reflecting on what they already know and what they have done, students develop their own understanding of social studies. Thinking about their world and adding new perspectives helps children to become critical thinkers.

Citizenship Education

  • A key objective of U.S. social studies education has been the preparation of children for civic engagement. Not only do children learn about the history of the United States, they learn principles of U.S. government and citizenship. The more children are socialized into the American model of democracy, the more engaged they may become in civic life. In that sense, citizenship education is like a very long course in how to participate in American society.

Moral Education

  • Some educators also believe that citizenship is also moral education. Duplass describes that as teaching children the difference between right and wrong. "Children come to decide which ideas and actions are undesirable or desirable by interaction with the environment through trial and error, observation, and reflection." By allowing children to solve problems and discuss contemporary social issues, children not only learn the dominant values of their culture, but also develop their own values on issues that involve different points of view. The social studies teacher must support children from all backgrounds, because they will be heavily influenced by the beliefs of their families and communities.

Multicultural Education

  • Since the civil rights movement, multicultural education has become a part of social studies education. Social studies textbooks reflect the trend in national and state education standards to teach children about other cultures so that they can become global thinkers. Another part of that instruction is to study the contributions of people from various backgrounds. In the recognition that people of all beliefs, ethnicities and nationalities have contributed to the development of the United States, there is a place in the curriculum to discuss many different cultures.


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