Your middle-schooler and social studies
Though state standards vary widely, most middle schoolers take a year of U.S. history.
U.S. history guidelines
• One year of state history
• One year of U.S. history, usually covering the colonial period and the American Revolution
• One year of U.S. history, usually covering the American Revolution through the Civil War
• One year of U.S. history, usually covering the Civil War to the present day
By GreatSchools Staff
Who recalls the dates of the Byzantine Empire? Or that the Ohlone Indians spoke one of the Utian languages? Details from social studies are easy to forget once we graduate to the real world. Still, such primers in history, geography, politics, and anthropology are crucial to our children's education.
How do you know if your child’s social studies curriculum stacks up? Check out our grade-by-grade milestones to understand your state and national standards.
Students are not getting the same quality of instruction in history that their parents and grandparents received. Critics point to many reasons, with some saying the major problem is vague history standards in most states.
Others point to the fact that No Child Left Behind requirements emphasize reading and math to the detriment of social studies subjects (such as history, government, and geography).
But there is evidence that this is starting to change, and some teachers are coming up with innovative approaches that use primary sources, which are now more easily accessed because of the Web.
Social studies defined
"One doesn't know whether to say 'social studies are' or 'social studies is,'" says Diane Ravitch, professor of education at New York University. "People don't know if it's a science or a collection of disciplines."
In elementary school, many subjects — history, geography, current events, and government — are lumped into the social studies category, but once students reach middle school, they will start receiving instruction in the separate disciplines.
History: The backbone of social studies
Prior to the 1930s, history was considered a core subject along with reading, writing, and math. According to Ravitch, in her article "A Brief History of Social Studies," social studies supplanted history in the early part of the 20th century. Educators and politicians felt that teaching chronological history was not the best use of school resources at a time when most Americans needed job skills and were not necessarily college bound.
The separate disciplines that make up social studies, however, can all be taught within the context of history. "You're getting government, economics, geography, and sociology in history. They all come together in one particular time and place in history," says Ravitch.
While there are no national history requirements in K-12 schools, the most likely course to be required is U.S. history. In addition, every state requires at least one year of state history.