The President’s View, September 2016by TCSS President David Huebner
This month I invite you to respond to a survey from one of our Board of Director’s participation in a studies standards review committee from the State Department of Education. Bill Carey, of Tennessee History for Kids, is on this committee, and his work can make a significant and crucial difference to the future of social studies in our state.
Please answer the following questions:
1. What would you like to see done to the K-12 social studies standards? 2. What changes would you like to see made? 3. What changes would you not like to see? 4. What would you like moved from this grade to that grade, etc? 5. Do you think the standards should continue to put an emphasis on primary sources? 6. Do you think we should still continue to have Tennessee topics and lessons interspersed in grades 4, 5, 8 and 11 when they come up in terms of American history? (Such as Tennessee in the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, the suffrage movement, the Lost State of Franklin, Coal Creek, Tennessee and the Trail of Tears, etc. A mandatory TN history class is not being considered). 7. Do you think the standards are too much? If so, how should they be scaled back? 8. Do you like the way first grade is sort of an "introduction to Tennessee" grade, second is an "introduction to the US" grade and third is a sort of "welcome to the world" grade? 9. If you don't like this arrangement, what would you like to see done to it? 10. What other changes or improvements would you make to our state social studies standards?
Please send your answers directly to David Huebner at email@example.com. I will collect the results for Carey and forward them in summary form to him.
-David Huebner, President TCSS firstname.lastname@example.org
The President’s View, August 2016by TCSS President David Huebner
Why History Still Matters
Although each day is a walk in the present, we are who we are because of the past. History still matters!
Teddy Roosevelt said in 1912 that “History must not be treated as something set off by itself.” Evidence is all around that some are choosing to ignore history and not only repeat the mistakes of the past, but pile on many new ones.
For many decades history was considered the primary field of social studies. The numerous so-called “secondary” courses, such as geography, government, civics, economics, sociology, and psychology, were often not given their due in a typical middle or high school curriculum. However, today social studies has achieved greater balance. No longer do principals refer to the Social Studies Department as the History Department.
History, however, may be king among all the many subjects in social studies. Besides the many variations-U.S. History, World History, Ancient History, European History, and the various AP social studies-there is a growing sense that if we lose our sense of history, we will lose our way as a nation.
We are in a time of challenges to the very teaching of what is “truth” in history. Some would choose to rewrite history and downgrade the darker side of our continental stories. Others would choose to ignore some presidents and-with partisan agenda in hand-only feature their favorites. And some would literally stretch truth, including denying our nation ever loses wars or that we have failed in any way.
To study history honestly is to recognize the moral concepts that unite our nation. Our rich past should be a guide to a better present-and a path to avoiding wrong choices in the future. And without history, we cannot deliver the good citizens of the next generation.
History helps us to assess evidence, look at conflicting interpretations, and peruse past examples of change.
So whether you are a history teacher or an elementary teacher who incorporates history into his lessons, be honest in your approach to history. Yes, history still matters.
The President’s View, July 2016by TCSS President David Huebner
Why Civic Responsibility and Citizenship Matter
Growing up in a military family that moved around a lot, it really was not all that difficult to learn the meaning of civic responsibility and citizenship. At each new assignment (tour of duty in military language)-really more of an adventure for us four kids-I witnessed my parents take on leadership roles and serve the military and nearby civilian communities. Both of my parents often spoke at club meetings, to various configurations of church groups (my Dad was an officer and chaplain), breakfast groups, luncheons, ribbon cuttings, ground-breakings, and school events. They never seemed nervous-if they were, they disguised it well! To this day I have tapes of both Mom & Dad speaking to some of these groups. The power of their words and witness still resonate with me
What has this got to do with teaching Social Studies? Our responsibilities as teachers include teaching our students how to engage in proper discourse with each other, as well as develop and hone the skills of citizenship. Now that is a mouthful in today’s political climate, where personal assaults and name-calling have become far too routine-and sadly accepted by too many citizens!
Our classrooms are greenhouses of growth in academic acuity, but maybe more importantly, in shaping the character of young men and women. If your most significant goal it to spurn your students on because they need to pass and do well in some form of standardized testing, you are missing the purpose of education. You as teacher hold tremendous responsibility in manifesting the skills of civic responsibility and citizenship. Beyond helping students understand why all citizens should vote, the duties extend beyond that. We must help students learn to:
Live out the principles of moral and ethical integrity;
Understand and appreciate other societies and cultures;
Commit to the concepts and values of democracy, justice, and equity;
Regard others highly without engaging in brutal language and personal attacks;
Work unselfishly for the common good and purposes of a free-and yet imperfect-nation; and
Apply civics and citizenship to responsible decision-making.
I presently serve as president of three organizations: the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies, the Maury County Education Association, and a local home owner association. I do not tout these as ribbons on my uniform, as my Dad would have said; I merely mention these responsibilities to remind ourselves as Social Studies educators, that we are lacking in our teaching efforts if we do not model the very skills we teach in the classroom.
Lead the way. Get involved.
And convey the passion and joy of civic responsibility and citizenship to your students.
The President’s View, June 2016by TCSS President David Huebner
The Value of Teaching & Learning Geography
While I have taught every subject in Social Studies (save Economics, which I truthfully dread!), the subject of Geography is near and dear to my heart. Perhaps because Geography was my first degree (from the “other” UT, the University of Texas/Austin) or maybe because my siblings and I traveled so much as kids, since my Dad was a U.S. Army officer, I have always held a fascination and deep curiosity for the nature and workings of this incredible planet.
However, today we see Geography scaled back in so many states. Not only did Tennessee downgrade the value of Geography a few years ago and restrict many of the opportunities teachers had to teach it, but states like Texas have removed it from their required courses.
And for what purpose? In a clever ruse, publishers insist that Geography is covered more than ever. After all, just look at the book titles: World History & Geography, US History & Geography, and so on. However, in a careful analysis of textbooks a few years ago, I discovered that little was changed in these newer books to reflect a greater exposure to Geography. Comparing the older World History textbooks with the new World History & Geography textbooks finds few, if any, additions to geographical understandings and concepts.. Indeed, just changing the title of a textbook does not fool teachers: Geography has been excised and severely restricted!
And why has its value been diminished at just the time in history we need it most? In a world that demonstrates great ignorance of geographical principles, ideas, cultures, landforms, water forms, environmental issues, climate change, water usage, population concerns, migration problems, conflicts, urban and rural issues, and economic development, we can hardly comprehend the dismissal of geography as a viable area worthy of great study. Why remove such a significant subject from curriculum?
Yet in spite of the many obstacles, educators can find ways to teach that Geography really isn’t just memorizing state capitols and shading in maps. Find ways to touch the lives of your students.
Don’t “hoard” your own knowledge & curiosity. For years I did not share the many unique experiences & stories I have that are so enlightening to Geography, and to life. Now I do and I find that kids are intrigued to hear them and that they make teaching Geography easier, because I can bring information to life.
Affirm and acknowledge the “reachers”. Don’t just look for academic achievement; look for the more intangible. That is really more of what education is about. Reward creativity and thought.
Feed your own curiosity: use memory markers and joggers. Whenever I drive anywhere, or even as soon as I get out of the shower, I write down things that intrigue me or I want to know about. For example, I passed a huge tanker truck the other day and noticed it carried carbon disulfide…so I Googled to find out what it was!
And don’t give up on Geography as a viable, separate subject in our state’s curriculum. The TCSS, along with the Tennessee Geographic Alliance, continues to lobby for a greater exposure of our students to Geography.
Do your part: Bring it to life in your classrooms, educate our sometimes uninterested “educrats” who seem to take education in strange directions, and contact your state and local education leaders. Don’t quit-keep teaching Geography!