Mission and Goals
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:
foster individual and cultural identity along with understanding of the forces that hold society together or pull it apart;
include observation of and participation in the school and community;
address critical issues and the world as it is;prepare students
to make decisions based on democratic principles; and lead to citizen
participation in public affairs.
The Amherst schools also endorse the NCSS position on what constitutes an exemplary social studies program:
Effective social studies teaching draws this content from the
social studies foundational disciplines (such as geography, government,
and history…It builds knowledge about the history and cultures of our
nation and the world, geographical relationships, economic systems and
processes, social and political institutions, interpersonal and
intergroup relations, and worldwide relationships among nations, races,
cultures, and institutions.
From this knowledge base, exemplary programs help students to:
(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.
Exemplary social studies programs also prepare students to
connect knowledge with beliefs and action using thinking skills that
lead to rational behavior in social settings. These include the thinking
skills involved in:
(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.
Exemplary social studies programs develop social and civic
participation skills that prepare students to work effectively in
diverse groups to address problems by discussing alternative strategies,
making decisions, and taking action: to pursue social and civic agendas
through persuasion, negotiation, and compromise; and to participate
actively in civic affairs.
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
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
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
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.