Saturday, December 08, 2007

Social Studies Is Necessary in the 21st Century by Akindele Akinyemi

As urban Michigan becomes dumber and dumber when it comes to knowing Social Studies we now have lawmakers in Lansing who want to get rid of it on the Michigan Merit Examination, a exam that is held every March across the State of Michigan.

It is bad enough that we cannot read and write on a 5th grade level in high schools in the urban community. Now you want to omit a portion of the social studies test to save money. This is called ignorance. In our community, we can barely keep a child's attention in learning about African Studies let alone World Geography.

As a person who have taught Social Studies for the past 8 years and have studied Geography for the past 25 years I can clearly tell you that we need Social Studies in the classroom. I cannot tell you how many students cannot find Africa on a map let alone France or the United Kingdom.

Our children do not know their Core Democratic Values. They have no clue that they do not have to steal or kill when they, too, can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In our urban Michigan mediocre education is a means to a comfortable lifestyle, not a means of gaining knowledge to improve our world. Children are told to study so that they may personally escape poverty, not because they are expected to contribute to overall human flourishing. Grades-not preparation for a vocation directed at the good-are the bottom line for too many American parents.

Some educators, of course, also blame low teacher salaries. However, a 2006 American Federation of Teachers report revealed that the average public school teacher's salary is $46,597, including average starting pay of $31,704. How is this low? Granted, these levels are not among the highest of all professions, but considering the summer vacation and the non-monetary reward of influencing the world's future, it is not a bad deal.

The problems are much deeper than salary. First, teaching (and education in general) is no longer a respected profession in the urban community and our best and brightest citizens develop a social aversion to pursuing it. Many people in urban Michigan continue to embrace the stupid adage that “those who can, do and those who can't, teach.” If teachers can't “cut it” then why do people continue to send their kids to school? Why is there no honor given to those are charged with equipping, forming, and shaping the hearts and minds of our world's future? Social Studies instructors should be given credit where credit is due because they cover a lot of ground in dealing with cultures, history, civics and economics.

Second, students are not encouraged to value learning about the world. Often students will say silly things such as, “Why do I need to learn social studies? I can get a good job without it.” Visionless and illiterate parents actually dissuade their children from taking courses that they don't “need” if there's not a direct future financial benefit. How can you not “need” more knowledge about the world furnished by any legitimate area of intellectual inquiry?

This attitude not only obscures the moral and traditional value of education. Ironically, a seemingly pragmatic obsession with financial reward also obscures its economic value. In an ever-changing world, what appears to be a viable career today may disappear ten years from now. Students educated in a broad range of fundamental disciplines-including physics-will be able to adapt more easily to the changing demands of a dynamic economy.

Unless we refocus, as a culture, on the value of education beyond material pragmatism, we run the risk of sabotaging an entire generation's ability to meet the future, unpredictable needs of our complex and broken world.

This is why we need social studies in the classroom and our children should be tested on this subject every year to see if they know the content area. If the rest of the world know our Constitution better then us and we are naturalized citizens that is a serious crisis to our national security.

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