Teaching Secondary School Social Studies

By James F. High | Go to book overview

2
Growth of social studies in American schools

". . . it would be well if they could be taught every Thing that is useful, and every Thing that is ornamental; but Art is long, and their Time is short. It is, therefore propos'd that they learn those Things that are likely to be most useful and most ornamental."

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 1749


1. Curricular History of Social Studies in the United States

Social studies have not ordinarily been included in the general secondary curriculum for much more than half a century. It is possible, among living men, to find those who can remember when history, as the only representative of the social sciences was not even a standard inclusion in the secondary course of study. History, if it was taught during the nineteenth century, usually had merely a didactic purpose, and it was likely to be a very dull subject.

Even now, on the part of a good many adults in this country, it is quite common to recall history as the most boring thing in high school. It is also a commonly held belief that history is good for students because "history repeats itself," because "if you know the story of the past you can guide the future," and that "people can profit by the mistakes of the past." This is a moralistic relic of a pedagogical interpretation of history as "philosophy teaching by example," which was common in the nineteenth century. Before 1890 there had been a slowly growing tendency to teach national history and possibly classical or even medieval history in such few high schools as existed, but along with the rest of the curriculum this was a part of the chaotic and unsystematic selection of subject matter which graced public high schools.

Since the social sciences are little more than one hundred years

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