Why Study Social Studies?

Civic Life

Before you ask me what the purpose of social studies is, I would like you to answer the following questions:

  • What are the powers of the President of the United States?
  • Who controls the economy?
  • How much influence does the budget presented by the Presidential budget office have over the budget that ends up being approved by Congress?
  • What were the key factors in common with the The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, The French Revolution and the Tea Party?
  • What does the government do with the taxes you pay each day and year?
  • Why does knowing any of this matter?

You've probably heard a lot about each of these topics, but hear-say is not a strong understanding of the principles at play. The President is a figurehead, but does not have much direct control over the economy. There are a few situations through which the office of the President can directly influence the economy, but mostly he can suggest policy that might influence the economy.

The final question: Why does knowing any of this matter? --> This is the key question.

Why do you need to know what the connection between the Revolutionary War, The Civil War, the French Revolution and the Tea Party? Simply because we've fought the same fight several times. In the Revolutionary War, the continental troops were fighting for their brand of freedom and economy. During the Civil War, the Southerners were fighting for their brand of freedom and economy. At the root of each of these, the victor was determined by the Freedom being sought. If you're unsure about what I mean, go brush up on the motivations for each of these groups; not just their stated motivations, but also who most benefited or benefits from the ideals and policies suggested.

In the modern political dialogue, much energy is put into arguing for or against one group or another. During a campaign the candidates will often make claims and attack their opponents record. Much energy is put into wooing single-issue voters, but what does the candidate do after they earn office? How many campaign promises has your Senator fulfilled or ignored? Do you know how to find out? All of this should be a part of a full and healthy social studies curriculum.

Do you know how to petition your local government? How can you start a community group to encourage improvement in your city? What can you do about your city's plans to put in a gas well downtown?

All of these actions are part-and-parcel with the social studies. In future posts, we'll look at College and Career Readiness...

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