Editor's Notebook

By Simpson, Michael | Social Education, November-December 2006 | Go to article overview

Editor's Notebook


Simpson, Michael, Social Education


History books are more likely to record the incidence and impact of wars than of diseases. Yet the historical effects of disease on societies have often been as devastating as those of war. Our opening article drives this point home by focusing on the great global flu pandemic that started during the last year of World War I and eventually claimed more lives than the war itself. Raphael Mazzone and Lee Ann Potter review the impact of the pandemic in the United States, where about 675,000 Americans are estimated to have died and more than 25 percent of the population to have become infected. The featured documents reflect the problems arising in an army depot in Philadelphia and the warning sent by the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. to superintendents of reservations across the country.

When students are tested on geography, the most challenging test items at every grade level are those requiring students to use and interpret maps. Our Research and Practice column features suggestions by Sarah Witham Bednarz, Gillian Acheson, and Robert S. Bednarz for helping to improve the ability of students to interpret maps. They point out that students need a better understanding of how and for what purposes geographic knowledge is created, and they outline activities that engage students in map creation and evaluation.

Ron Levitsky's Point of View feature takes up questions raised by a previous Social Education article on "The State of Social Studies" (1) about the inadequate attention given to social studies in American schools. A veteran eighth-grade teacher, Levitsky judges that social studies education has been adversely affected by No Child Left Behind's emphasis on reading and math as the "important subjects." He defends the need to incorporate cultural diversity in the curriculum, and emphasizes the importance of developing students' inquiry skills.

Having an attractive, friendly and practical website can be a great asset for a teacher who wants to establish strong ties with students and to offer them a means of accessing reading lists, class assignments, and resources outside of the classroom. C. Frederick Risinger recommends some excellent sites that can serve as models for other teachers.

Much of the traditional story of the "First Thanksgiving" celebration by Pilgrims and Indians is a myth. The lesson plan presented in this issue by staff members of the National Museum of the American Indian identifies the mythical elements and provides important historical background about the society and culture of the Wampanoag people, who inhabited the area where the Pilgrims settled.

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