History Day

I am one week away from the school History Day competition. This is the fifth year of this event at the school based level. We have grown every year and this year we are doing the same again. Parents and kids are used to this event but still every year it is a big to do. I enjoy it because it puts social studies in the center stage. It allows the kids hard work to be shown to the community which always makes me very proud.

However there are always detractors to this event. They question why social studies deserves an event like this and why math and science classes do not have events like this as they are far more important in the modern age. Social studies is just "something you do to pass the time."

Isn't social studies important folks for government? Isn't social studies important in knowing about economics? Isn't social studies important in historical factors? It seems that people conveniently look down upon social studies because we take it for granted.

There was an older teacher that always told me that cutting back time from history/social studies was the dumbing down of the electorate. That way we create a generation of people who do not know about their nation's history, political scene, economics, etc. and rely upon others to make the decisions for them. Well, in what I am seeing every day in classrooms across America, on Youtube, on television, and online it seems that this is the case. I can recall vividly in my career that social studies was the class that kids were pulled out of for testing for special education (because it is not tested), or for meetings with administration/guidance, to get support for math/English. This really bothered me because these kids were not going to receive information that was actually pertinent to being a citizen of this nation.

In elementary school social studies is hardly, or not even, taught. Which means some children do not receive their first social studies course until they are 11 years old in middle school. That to me is absolutely criminal. There is elementary curriculum for social studies but it is not addressed, it is covered once every three weeks, or not covered until after testing. When these kids come to middle school they are already behind. So middle school teachers have to try and catch them up. Which puts the kids further behind and not ready for high school history. Once they hit high school history those teachers become mad with middle school teachers because students are unprepared for the rigor and structure of their history courses. I always speak to those teachers are state that it is not my fault and that I cannot even get through my curriculum because I am having to cover material from 3-5 grades in my 7th grade class. But that is not what they want to hear.

So when these kids leave high school and head to college these students, historically, have gaps. We do not have the best students heading off to universities for history because the students do not have every piece of the skills needed. This is a great disservice to everyone. We are neglecting a key component of education. We strive for academic success and want our kids to be cutting edge and meeting the benchmarks of other nations. However we seem to only want that in math, science, and STEM. Social Studies is just as vitally important.

So when I have my History Day evening and parents always tell me how wonderful an event like this is and how their kids enjoy the subject, it makes me happy. However it also makes me sad because I realize that these students have not received an opportunity to exhibit this type of knowledge for social studies before. Parents are having to wait until their child is a teenager before showcasing historical information. This makes me worry for the future of our nation and makes me hope that we can attempt to get this subject back into the forefront of elementary schools and beyond. Because without this, I fear that we are looking for a very bumpy road historically. Mistakes that have been avoided in the past because we knew history will be made again because we are too ignorant to it. This will have dire consequences, but those consequences may be playing a slow game. Eventually they will rear up and we will be thrust with this problem. The solution is closer than we think. It's just pushing ourselves to accept it.

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