Being a social studies educator is not the same as being a history teacher. What are the implications of this?
I think they are quite profound.
Many who choose to teach social studies are initially attracted to the field because they want to teach history. In fact, a social studies ed major will often take a large number of history courses, though usually not enough to receive an MA in History. Add to this some education courses, a single social studies methods course, a field experience (observations), and student teaching, and a prospective teacher enters the job market hoping to get a full time teaching gig. In most cases, I think, this future teacher considers himself/herself a history teacher, not a social studies teacher. In fact, it would be revealing to ask teachers, those in training and those in service, to articulate the difference between being a history teacher and being social studies teacher.
In our social studies classes, information literacy and historical thinking concepts and skills overlap, but they are not identical. I am not sure this distinction ever came up when I was training to become a teacher.
Social studies teachers have a much broader focus than history teachers. We need to embrace our role as social studies teachers and ask ourselves some big questions, including:
What is social studies? What isn’t social studies?
How does a classroom teacher that embraces social studies act differently than a teacher who focuses only on history?
What are the goals of the social studies? What are the goals of history ed?
How do we incorporate more of the social sciences into our classes?
I, obviously, need to explore this theme more. One big implication of embracing social studies, as opposed to just history, is to take seriously that we need to incorporate current events into our classes
More to come…