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Opening Arguments

Social Studies

Here's an education-reform idea actually worth supporting -- Abolish Social Studies:

Emerging as a force in American education a century ago, social studies was intended to remake the high school. But its greatest effect has been in the elementary grades, where it has replaced an older way of learning that initiated children into their culture with one that seeks instead to integrate them into the social group. The result was a revolution in the way America educates its young. The old learning used the resources of culture to develop the child’s individual potential; social studies, by contrast, seeks to adjust him to the mediocrity of the social pack.

Why promote the socialization of children at the expense of their individual development? A product of the Progressive era, social studies ripened in the faith that regimes guided by collectivist social policies could dispense with the competitive striving of individuals and create, as educator George S. Counts wrote, “the most majestic civilization ever fashioned by any people.”

[. . .]

Social studies, because it is designed not to waken but to suppress individuality, shuns all but the most rudimentary and uninspiring language. Social studies textbooks descend constantly to the vacuity of passages like this one, from People and Places:

Children all around the world are busy doing the same things. They love to play games and enjoy going to school. They wish for peace. They think that adults should take good care of the Earth. How else do you think these children are like each other? How else do you think they are like you?

The language of social studies is always at the same dead level of inanity. There is no shadow or mystery, no variation in intensity or alteration of pitch—no romance, no refinement, no awe or wonder. A social studies textbook is a desert of linguistic sterility supporting a meager scrub growth of commonplaces about “community,” “neighborhood,” “change,” and “getting involved.”

Some of us (I plead guilty myself) have been fond of complaining about things like political correctness as if they are new forces in the destruction of individualism and promotion of the group. But that trend has been around a long time, and it's worked its way into the system so well that we don't even notice it. As a result, we have lost one of the primary functions of an education, to inculcate children in the ways of Western culture and the American expression of it.

As the article concludes, the "test of an educational practice is its power to enable a human being to realize his own promise in a constructive way. Social studies failes this test."

Long article, but well worth the read.