Social studies are taught because they build social understanding, encourage civic efficacy, teach critical thinking, instill character and provide students with an understanding of their role as a citizen in a democracy. The democratic process requires that citizens take an active role in their future and the future of their country, which social studies can teach students to do.
Social studies also helps students learn from the mistakes of their country as well as the mistakes of other countries. Students will learn about potential policy implications and will be able to make their own decisions about policy and values after taking a social studies course.
Thomas Jefferson stressed the importance of learning about history by saying that the vitality of a democracy was wholly dependent upon the participation of its citizens and the education that they had received. Social studies is the study of history and of people, countries and the policies in said countries that have been enacted.
In a social studies classroom, students are often taught ancient history, modern history and current history. It is important that the social study class use active lessons to teach students how best to process and think about what they are learning. There is a big difference between active learning, which is "minds-on" and "hands-on" and passive learning. An example of this would be a debate or interactive discourse following a lecture rather than a packet of workbook pages or other busy work.