The Focus of the Recent
Simpson, Michael, Social Education
The focus of the recent NCSS annual meeting in Kansas City was "Social Studies: The Heart of the Curriculum." That theme highlighted the reality that education cannot be reduced to the teaching of reading, writing, math and science. The most important collective decisions that our young people will make to shape the destiny of the United States will be in their roles as citizens and voters, and the more they know about past events and present issues, the better those decisions will be.
The articles in this issue of Social Education deal with a rich variety of past and present subjects that are exactly the kind with which students should be conversant by the time they graduate from school.
Social studies is famously the home of the discussion of controversial issues, and some policy makers are trying to steer one of the most controversial educational issues toward the social studies classroom. Faced in a number of states by the thorny problem of whether to put intelligent design in the science curriculum over the opposition of science teachers, some policy makers have suggested moving the discussion of intelligent design to the social studies classroom instead. In her Democracy Education column, Diana Hess discusses whether the debate about intelligent design should be a focus of social studies. She presents four alternative lessons on the subject that might be included in a social studies class, and offers some reactions by teachers to each of these possibilities.
Joanne Dufour continues Social Education's tradition of presenting a biography of the winner of the latest Nobel peace prize with an article on the joint winners in 2005--the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei. She identifies the problems that both have had to deal with in recent years--especially those of dismantling Saddam Hussein's nuclear program in Iraq and monitoring current nuclear initiatives by Iran--and outlines the challenges of the future as well as the need for stronger international support of IAEA endeavors.
In our Teaching with Documents column, Kahlil Chism investigates the work of an agency entrusted with a vital role following the abolition of slavery: the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. The Bureau, headed by Major General Oliver Otis Howard (later the founder of Howard University), sought to help former slaves acquire land, obtain jobs and pursue education. The documents presented--land application records, a labor agreement, a marriage certificate and the monthly report of a Bureau agent--offer fascinating insights into the human dimensions of slavery and its aftermath.
At a time when the Supreme Court has regularly been in the headlines, our Looking at the Law column examines some of the issues arising from the process of nominating Supreme Court justices. A panel of American Bar Association experts review the balance of power between the president and the Senate in judicial nominations, the effect of interest groups on nominations and confirmations, and the debate about reforming the process. …