Right now, the buzzwords in education and career-readiness all involve STEM or STEAM.
For those unfamiliar with the acronyms, they reference science, technology, engineering and math. The A, when included, represents art. State standardized tests and every college-entrance exam measure proficiency in English and writing.
But social studies – history, government and economics, among others – are equally as important for producing well-rounded students and citizens. Those fields and related areas of study, however, are too often overlooked.
After Bancroft Sen. Lydia Brasch succeeded in pulling her bill to revise civics standards and the 70-year-old Americanism clause from the Education Committee, where it had stalled, Nebraska lawmakers have another chance to discuss and reiterate the importance of social studies. That discussion must examine the whole picture.
Yes, all students absolutely must learn about the foundational documents still governing their rights today, as Brasch’s legislation aims to do. She’s correct in her posit that too few understand democracy, both at the local and federal levels, and their roles in it.
Closer study of the formation of our political system – including the citizenship test, as she’s proposed to some criticism – would probably improve their knowledge on these important topics. That said, their knowledge of history and civics must be far broader and not focus solely on the positives.
Though political science is among the social studies disciplines, historical facts bear no party allegiance.
Yet we live in a world where, just three years ago, an Oklahoma House committee overwhelmingly backed a bill that would outlaw Advanced Placement U.S. History – a course that its sponsor told CNN at the time shows “what is bad about America.”
Even the greatest, most powerful country on Earth overcame a bumpy, mistake-riddled route to its position. Lawmakers can’t wipe away slavery, internment camps or brute-force displacement of Natives – but these grievous wrongs must serve as lessons that still shape modern U.S. culture and must not be repeated, lest we want to prove true George Santayana’s comments on historical ignorance.
Sanitizing history, or tailoring it to a specific ideology, sets a dangerous precedent. The truth, warts and all, is needed to ensure a future generation of students are educated and aware of both the good and bad. The Oklahoma bill, we’re thankful, died a quiet death.
Social studies are of the utmost importance for creating a civic-minded population, and history comprises just one piece of the puzzle. Ensuring the next generation is politically active requires the knowledge, understanding and application of the past so that they can build a successful future upon this foundation.
— Journal Star editorial board