Social studies education and the preparation of social studies teachers is a highly contested arena. A key issue social studies educators continually wrestle with is whether social studies education should promote a brand of citizenship that is adaptive to the status quo and interests of the socially powerful or whether it should promote citizenship aimed at transforming and reconstructing society (Hursh & Ross, 2000; Ross, 2006; Ross & Marker, 2005).
In our democratic society, all teachers and teacher educators--regardless of subject area--can learn from the ideas shared by social studies educators that deal with how to make education in an "era of accountability" more responsive to democratic ideals that form the foundation of social studies teaching and curriculum. We believe that the ongoing discussion of research, theory, and practice in social studies teacher education has the potential to benefit all teacher educators in critically examining and transforming their practices to better meet the needs of P-16 students.
Social Studies Teacher Education
This themed issue of Teacher Education Quarterly focuses on the status of social studies teacher education in an era where social studies education is suffering from declining curricular importance in elementary and secondary schools amidst issues such as accountability, standardization of the curriculum, the neo-conservative agenda, social justice, and teaching for a democratic society. The articles included here examine how both teachers and teacher educators respond to these issues in preservice and inservice teacher education experiences, assess the impact of these contexts on the preparation of social studies teachers in a democratic society, and present approaches to social studies teacher education that support democratic teaching in an era of accountability.
Phillip Kovacs sets the stage for this issue with his article "Education for Democracy: It Is Not an Issue of Dare, It Is an Issue of Can," in which he examines how neoconservative and neoliberal educational reform efforts, including the No Child Left Behind Act, work to prevent social studies teachers from teaching towards democracy. In response, Kovacs argues that if social studies teachers and teacher educators are to have spaces where they can teach towards democracy, progressive scholars must amplify progressive ideals and develop and maintain a progressive infrastructure capable of supporting education in the public interest.
If anyone doubts that teaching for democracy in today's schools is a dangerous proposition, Robert L. Dahlgren's "Fahrenheit 9/11 in the Classroom" illustrates remarkably easy it is to lose one's job merely for attempting to teach social studies in a public school in the United States today. In this article, Dahlgren examines this disturbing picture of the teaching profession in the twenty-first century through the explosive reaction to the use of Michael Moore's provocative documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 in American classrooms.
W(h)ither the social studies in high-stakes testing? is the question posed by Wayne Au in his article, which draws on the available body of empirical research, to argue that social studies teachers are feeling the pressures of high-stakes testing, and that these pressures are causing social studies teachers to alter their classroom practices and curriculum. Au posits that because of the consistent variability connected to social studies teaching in relation to high-stakes tests, social studies education, in many instances, is positioned to provide an education that challenges the hegemonic norms of high-stakes testing generally as part of a broader need to teach for social justice in today's schools.
In "Social Studies and the Social Order: Telling Stories of Resistance," Douglas McKnight and Prentice Chandler ask "what is the role of social studies education in a political atmosphere in which a technocratic discourses of testing and accountability threatens to undermine the very democratic institutions that social studies is supposed to uphold and criticize? …