It’s a common question asked by students: “When am I going to use this?” Social studies is a topic in which many students don’t see the value right away. Why is it so important to understand the past? Why is understanding the world on a social level so crucial?
Students in elementary school through college explore a broad range of social studies topics in school to build understanding in humanities and social sciences. Why are these courses so important?
Students Understand Sensitive Cultural Issues
Students of all ages must develop an understanding of sensitive social issues, including the impact of sociocultural factors like class, race, and gender. Social studies gives students the opportunity to explore and ask questions, connecting issues they read about in books and see in movies to a real-world context. Students also have the opportunity to learn about the multicultural world we live in as well as the interdependence and relationship between cultures, countries, and people.
Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills
For students to develop strong decision making and critical thinking skills, they need to understand perspectives, concepts, and principles that are all part of social studies. They learn how to examine different situations and contexts and then apply different ways of thinking to new situations. They also learn to process information and make decisions based on past experiences--even those they did not personally have.
Students Learn Political & Economic Skills
In social studies courses, students learn about more than the basic history of the government and economic structure. In these classes, students become informed future voters. They understand the structure of the country’s government and also learn how resources are allocated. Students learn how to analyze and evaluate existing ideas and theories and determine how the future can be different. Educators hope to instill the sense that creativity can change the status quo.
Students Observe Citizenship & Values
Social studies is about more than learning about the past. It also reinforces fundamental values all citizens of the world should learn. They learn to appreciate justice, equality, and building responsible relationships in society. For very young students, this may involve learning how to recycle or pick up litter at the park. For older students, this may involve learning how to read government documents or understanding why it is important to vote in local elections. Courses in social studies show students how to reflect on societal concerns, appreciate global issues, read pertinent literature, and identify important community resources. In sum, students learn about their roles, rights, and responsibilities.
Students Respect History
Social studies is also essential for helping students understand history and its influence on the modern world. A common school of thought is that failure to understand the past means that society is doomed to repeat mistakes. It is important to examine history and improve upon it over time. Without historical knowledge, learning from the past is not possible. Social studies fills in the gaps that other types of coursework may not necessarily cover.