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Squishiness watch

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Following on the heels of CIRCLE’s recent report showing that most states do not significantly test high school students in social studies or civics, a “draft framework” for common social studies standards is scheduled to be released at the upcoming conference of the National Council of Social Studies on November 17.

But not everyone is optimistic about the new standards. Writing at the Core Knowledge blog, Robert Pondiscio worries that the new standards “might be so devoid of curricular content as to be functionally meaningless.” He continues:

“Social studies specialists have been working with state department of education officials and others to create standards in that subject,” [Catherine] Gewertz notes [at Education Week].  That means expert guidance on the history and geography subject matter children should learn in each grade–the seven continents and oceans of the world in kindergarten; Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt in first grade; the U.S. Constitution in second grade–right?  I mean that is the point of this exercise, isn’t it? Gewertz’s blog post indicates those looking for specificity might be disappointed.

“Early signs suggest that you shouldn’t expect something that prescribes the specific issues, trends, or events that students should study, but rather describes the structure, tools, and habits of mind they need in order to undertake an exploration of the discipline, and offers states a frame for the content they choose.”

Just asking: If the “framework” for social studies takes a pass on detailing what’s worth knowing and contents itself instead with a squishy and unsatisfying description of the “structure, tools and habits of mind,” how–how exactly, please–will that be anything than redundant with the CCSS ELA standards?

The ELA standards strike a hammer blow for a content-rich vision of literacy in U.S. classrooms without detailing the content.  It’s a step in the wrong direction if social studies specialists are unwilling to begin to detail at least some of what that content should include.

We’ll be following the release of the new standards, so check back here for more.