When testing in education loses sight of the value of social studies

When testing in education loses sight of the value of social studies

Blog Contributed by Clare Brooks, Director of Social Studies 6-12

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it…History is literally present in all that we do.” James Baldwin.  

Ask any social science teacher and they would wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Baldwin. So why has history education been placed on the backburner in schools across the nation? The answer is actually quite simple: it’s not a tested subject.  

With the emphasis on test scores in our educational world today, there leaves little room to focus on any other subjects. Even when the subject allows students to take what they have learned in other classes and apply it to real-world examples.

Social science subjects are often underfunded by schools, with fewer resources and fewer teachers allocated to the department. It’s usually the first subject cut out in a K-5 building where teachers teach multiple subjects, and inevitably it’s the class where picture day runs through.  

Even though history is the class that often falls to the wayside, it is the link between all the subjects. It’s the place where the critical thinking and literacy skills learned in English classes are given a place to be applied to real-world scenarios.  It’s where the study of climate changes in science class can be traced by the movement and migration of people, showing patterns all the way to the present day. And yes, there is even a connection to math, as we know economic decisions run the world.  

So why is this a problem if social science subjects are not tested subjects? While the scores for a history test might not impact a school’s grade, by not putting a focus on the social sciences student’s futures as productive, responsible citizens are at risk. History class shows us the causes for every event, conflict, and societal issue that are happening in the here and now. Without the understanding of where we have come from it is hard to see our world, and our home country, through a critical lens. Without that understanding, we are even less able to begin solving the problems we face today: how do you solve an issue that you cannot see?

History provides students time to question and dream. It gives them the opportunity to imagine a better future for themselves. Our world today needs more students leaving schools with the ability to critically think about problems and come up with solutions for them.  There is no better subject than history to make our students prepared for the challenges of life and make a difference in our world.