Social Studies is in trouble! I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist, but I need to make you aware of some facts regarding social studies education in the state of Florida. We are now the only discipline that is not represented in Tallahassee. The state Social Studies Specialist position has been officially eliminated (they had been putting off filling it for almost a year.)
A meeting was recently held in Orlando to “collaboratively explore using FCAT results”. This meeting was coordinated by the Florida Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, and no one representing social studies was even invited to attend.
Regardless of your level, you most certainly are aware of the extent to which FCAT now drives the use of resources at the state and district level. In my district Eisenhower funds have been “commandeered” to provide all of our schools with reading specialists. These are federal dollars that were designed to allow for staff development of teachers in all of the core curriculum areas.
Last year Education Commissioner Charles Crist advocated several “best practices” in the Monday Report. One of these was to double up on the teaching of reading and math — I’ll leave it to you to figure out where the time was taken from. In light of the recent terrorist attack, it seems to me that it is more important than ever to educate our students about geography, world history, global economics, American history, and citizenship, as well as the other social studies electives.
The First Lady just made a statement saying that American history is the most important subject students need to learn. I hope her brother-in-law was listening. I dislike the amount of testing that takes place in our schools now, but the fact remains if it isn’t tested, it isn’t taught. We are now the only area not included in FCAT testing, and I believe that resources will continue to move away from social studies and towards those areas that are tested.
I urge you to consider contacting your state representatives to ask that we receive the respect that the other disciplines get. Unfortunately, many legislators have a very fuzzy notion of what constitutes social studies, and why it is so important. Please — let’s unite to provide them with this education!
Trends and Issues, Volume XIII, No. 3 (Fall, 2001) page 3.