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How are we doing? Social Studies…

I took a look through Ontario’s Social Studies curriculum standards for Grade 1 and had a good chuckle.  

Starting with the term “Social Studies” itself, a phrase which has – over my lifetime – replaced the more useful and specific subjects, “History” and “Geography.”  As Rob & Cyndy Shearer put it in the introduction to their updated edition of Famous Men of Ancient Greece, “The most pressing bits of information conveyed in the majority of elementary social studies texts are, ‘You live in America,’ and ‘The fireman/policeman/doctor/librarian is your friend.’  These things, we believe, any non-comatose child knows long before kindergarten.”

If that’s the case, the Ontario curriculum truly excels in presenting Social Studies for the comatose child.  I know that, given general guidelines like these, some truly gifted teachers may soar to great heights, and some, maybe many students may blossom.  But I would absolutely LOVE to see all kids and teachers challenged with specific standards such as those proposed by the Core Knowledge Series (“what your… grader needs to know”), if only to establish – well, the title gives it away – a core knowledge of shared information which we can trust that every child has at least been exposed to.

I’ll be over here holding my breath.  And while I wait… here’s a sampling of what they learn in Social Studies, Grade One.  These are just a few highlights.  I’m not picking and choosing, either… it’s just all too trivial to leave everything in.

Overall Expectations

By the end of Grade 1, students will:
* identify people with whom they have significant relationships, and the rules and responsibilities associated with people, places, and events in their lives and communities;
* use a variety of resources and tools to gather, process, and communicate information about the rules people follow in daily life and the responsibilities of family members and other people in their school and community;
* explain how and why relationships, rules, and responsibilities may change over time, and in different places.

Specific Expectations

Knowledge and Understanding

By the end of Grade 1, students will:
* describe significant people and places in their lives (e.g., parents, sports figures; bedroom, park, playground, community centre) and the rules associated with them;
* identify significant events in their lives (e.g., their first day of school, a trip) and the rules associated with them;
* describe how they follow the rules about respecting the rights and property of other people and about using the shared environment responsibly (e.g., by sharing, being courteous, cooperating, not littering).

NOT LITTERING???  Yup, that sure takes precedence over learning about rulers of Ancient Egypt and the idea that every civilization throughout history has shared the same basic needs:  food, clothing and shelter.  Cuz that’s what we’ve been learning about this year…

Inquiry/Research and Communication Skills

By the end of Grade 1, students will:
* use illustrations, key words, and simple sentences (e.g., chart, picture book, cartoon) to sort, classify, and record information about relationships, rules, and responsibilities;
* construct and read concrete, pictorial, and simple maps, graphs, charts, diagrams, and timelines to clarify and present information about relationships, rules, and responsibilities in their daily lives (e.g., timeline of a school day, class graph of students' responsibilities at home);

Application

By the end of Grade 1, students will:
* explain how events and actions (e.g., a ban on popular toys at school, birth of a sibling) can cause rules and responsibilities to change, and describe what some new rules and responsibilities might be;
* identify an area of concern (e.g., littering, sharing, conflicts), and suggest changes in rules or responsibilities to provide possible solutions;

Really, it’s just too easy to laugh at this stuff.  Until you realize that schools are proud and kids are proud and teachers are proud and if they get it all done, they all come home at the end of the year feeling like they have done their very, very best.

To me, it’s simply reassuring… just so everybody knows, I think we’re doing okay.  We’re not missing much.  I think we’d be doing okay as long as I took my child outside to see stop lights and police officers from time to time. 

Read the whole curriculum here… if you have time and patience for this sort of twaddle.

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