Friday, November 21, 2014

The "new" Social Studies Core Curriculum -cough- Framework

Today I received a copy of the Connecticut Elementary and Secondary Social Studies Framework. You can get a copy here.  It came with the following letter of explanation;

"Request for Public Comment
Working with a broad and diverse group of stakeholders, including teachers and content experts, Connecticut has developed a statewide framework for social studies across the elementary and secondary education continuum. This set of grade-level expectations is intended to provide an engaging roadmap for teaching history, civics, economics, and geography. 
The Connecticut Elementary and Secondary Social Studies Frameworks is not intended to be a state social studies curriculum, but rather a model districts can use. These frameworks represent a substantial shift in the way that social studies was most commonly taught in the past, and present a new way of teaching social studies in the Information Age. Rooted in an inquiry-based approach, the frameworks advocate that students “take informed action” and that they become active and engaged citizens.
The frameworks also recognize the important role that teachers play in helping students develop into informed, thoughtful, and active citizens and encourage teachers to provide, and help students develop, tangible opportunities to take informed action.
The Department has been actively soliciting and welcoming feedback from teachers, educational stakeholders and the general public regarding the new frameworks. Please note that the deadline for submission is 5 p.m. on December 1, 2014. We kindly ask that you provide any written comments to Stephen.Armstrong@ct.gov before the deadline.
The complete draft of the Connecticut Elementary and Secondary Social Studies Frameworks can be found here: 
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/board/ssframeworks.pdf. 
Thank you, in advance, for sharing your thoughts and comments regarding Connecticut’s proposed social studies frameworks."
 I sent the following response;

I have taken a brief look at the Framework being proposed by the CONNECTICUT SOCIAL STUDIES FRAMEWORKS WRITING TEAM.

The Connecticut State Department of Education never surprises me in their exercises in advocating exactly the opposite of what needs to be done to improve public education and in this case Social Studies in particular is jaw-dropping.

I am going to make every attempt to restrain myself from calling this steaming pile of mediocrity what it truly is and instead concentrate on some specifics.

First, there is nothing 'new' about this framework.  This is last century's idea about Social Studies regurgitated and repositioned as something innovative. It not only pedagogically toxic but is devoid of any intellectual rigor or merit as a framework that any child should be exposed to.  While the framework "connects" itself to Common Core Standards (page 3) there is little evidence that either the Common Core Standard or the Framework is connected to social reality.

Also on page 3, the Framework offers the platitude that it advocates "the Inquiry Process" - something the authors of the framework have yet to exercise themselves.  I say this because the framework goes on to constrain the teaching of Social Studies to a number of subject categories that allow social studies teachers to continue teaching last century's curriculum by sleep-walking to retirement.  Frameworks such as these are the best advertisement for privatization of public schools one can find.

On page 4 of the Framework, we expect our students to get excited by exercises like; Students investigate the history of Columbus’s exploration and write editorials to their local newspaper or attend a Board of Education meeting to discuss whether the town and school should celebrate Columbus Day."" as if writing a letter to the editor about the celebration of Columbus Day is a monumentally important civic responsibility.  It's not the only such empty exercise implied. We are living through what is being labeled as The Technological Singularity in which we are pioneering the transformation of humans into cyborgs, experimenting with the modification of human design with DNA therapies, and witnessing an information revolution that shakes the very foundations of capitalism, science, and governance in a interplanetary context and the Framework thinks writing a letter to the editor about Columbus Day is a Social Studies exercise.  Where will they find a newspaper to do that with?

Wait.  the Framework has absolutely no intellectual shame.  On page five, "An introduction to all four disciplines of the C3 framework should be introduced in the primary grades. This would include, but is not limited to, the use of maps, globes, the rights and responsibilities of groups, perspectives on the past, local history, and economic decision-making."

Not limited to globes.  Globes.

Does anyone read this stuff?

There's more, in Kindergarten - "Me and My Community: Home, Class, School, and Town communities are studied (ex. class and school rules, maps of neighborhoods and town)".  How about some recognition of who kids are and what their questions about life and themselves are?  As a Joseph Campbell fan whose essential message is, "Follow your bliss", how about treating young children to an understanding of which directions to grow.  Rather than school rules, how about teaching them about social behavior and how to exercise themselves at home, in school, with their friends, in society as a whole?  The best way to send a message that a prison is a school intolerant of individual differences is by practicing the "new (twas always thus)" framework.

As we bear witness on a near daily basis of student motivated shootings of classmates, doesn't the study of social studies bear some, however remote, responsibility for designing a framework that builds good citizenship by emphasizing how to exercise self-control, social -control, social manners, how-to-get-help when one is in trouble, how to communicate and remediate social frustrations, how to build trust, how to navigate one's life in a no-longer-geographic-centric world?

Which raises another non-trivial issue, Why is the technological Singularity wholly absent from this framework?  It is absent in a number of ways.

First where is the advocacy of using Google Maps, create-a-society gaming, search engines, alternative historical, ahistorical, and death of history resources?

Second, why is the study of social studies mired in a presumptive names, places, dates, social-conformity-to-rules-through pointless exercises model when we are now realizing that it is the trajectory of ideas, memes, and social will that drives a better understanding of history as humankind's journey to optional death, transformation to augmented and customizable self-identity, and interplanetary citizen (soon to be inter-galactic)?

Third, when does social studies grow up to promote global citizenship and responsibility rather than a citizenship model that by all empirical evidence (voting metrics) has failed miserably?  Why not encourage the experimentation with alternative modes of teaching citizenship?

To continue to teach social studies as an intellectual dead-end of frustration with the system, schools and government (go write a letter to an editor) is malpractice on the part of the Department of Education and those who would approve of this Framework.  It needs an entire rewrite, it needs a collaborative set of authors who are not ingrown special interests who can exercise some courage and Yankee Ingenuity?

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