The mission of the Amherst, Pelham, and Amherst Pelham Regional Schools’ social studies program is driven by our district commitment to educating our children for responsible citizenship as members of the local, national, and world communities and based on national standards for teaching and learning in social studies and history. Inquiry is at the core of this curriculum as students are challenged to ask questions, investigate, analyze, and critique before they draw conclusions about. Students must connect knowledge, skills, and values as they engage in historical and social inquiry. They must be able to recognize and respect multiple perspectives and diverse experiences in order to be contributing members of society.
The National Council for the Social Studies’ position papers on the vision for effective teaching and learning in social studies embrace our district goals (see www.socialstudies.org/position .) The following excerpts from the NCSS position paper are consistent with the district’s goals:
The Amherst schools also endorse the NCSS position on what constitutes an exemplary social studies program:
(1) develop skills, concepts, and generalizations necessary to understand the sweep of human affairs;
(2) appreciate the benefits of diversity and community, the value of widespread economic opportunity, and the contributions that people of both genders and the full range of ethnic, racial, and religious groups have made to our society;
(3) become ready and willing to contribute to public policy formulation; and (4) acquire ways of managing conflict that are consistent with democratic procedures.
(1) acquiring, organizing, interpreting, and communicating information;
(2) processing data in order to investigate questions, develop knowledge, and draw conclusions;
(3) generating and assessing alternative approaches to problems and making decisions that are both well informed and justified according to democratic principles; and
(4) interacting with others in empathetic and responsible ways.
In 1988, The Bradley Commission on History in the Schools first issued its report: Building a History Curriculum: Guidelines for Teaching History in Schools (published by the National Council for History Education, Inc., copyright 2000). The Amherst schools embrace this report and cite the following recommendations as critical responsibilities for the design and implementation of a K-12 social studies curriculum. (See pages 7-8 in the Bradley Commission report.)
1. That the knowledge and habits of mind to be gained from the study of history are indispensable to the education of citizens in a democracy. The study of history should, therefore, be required of all students.
2. That such study must reach well beyond the acquisition of useful information. To develop judgment and perspective, historical study must often focus upon broad, significant themes and questions, rather than short-lived memorization of facts without context. In doing so, historical study should provide context for facts and training in critical judgment based upon evidence, including original sources, and should cultivate the perspective arising from a chronological view of the past down to the present day. Therefore it follows. . .
3. That the curricular time essential to develop the genuine understanding and engagement necessary to exercising judgment must be considerably greater than that presently common in American school programs in history.
4. That the kindergarten through grade six social studies curriculum be history- centered.
5. That this Commission recommends to the states and to local school districts the implementation of a social studies curriculum requiring no fewer than four years of history among the six years spanning grades 7 through 12.
The Commission regards such time as indispensable to convey the three kinds of historical reality all citizens need to confront: American history to tell us who we are and who we are becoming; the history of Western civilization to reveal our democratic political heritage and its vicissitudes; world history to acquaint us with the nations and people with whom we shall share a common global destiny. It follows...
6. That every student should have an understanding of the world that encompasses the historical experiences of peoples of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
7. That history can best be understood when the roles of all constituent parts of society are included; therefore the history of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and men and women of all classes and conditions should be integrated into historical instruction.
8. That the completion of a substantial program in history (preferably a major, minimally a minor) at the college or university level be required for the certification of teachers of social studies in the middle and high schools.
The Commission is concerned by the minimal, frequently insubstantial, state requirements for historical studies in the education of social studies teachers. The kind of historical instruction we believe to be indispensable requires prior study of the subject in depth.
9. That college and university departments of history review the structure and content of major programs for their suitability to the needs of prospective teachers, with special attention to the quality and liveliness of those survey courses whose counterparts are most often taught in the schools: world history, Western civilization, and American history.
We welcome your feedback to the Social Studies Curriculum Guide. Please send comments to SocialStudies@arps.org.