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Autonomy in Social Studies: No Room for Common Core
As larger districts, schools, and states such as Tennessee walk away from Common Core Standards, it becomes more evident than ever that Common Core Standards are ineffective. As Betty Peters, an Alabama State school board member stated, “Only when you’re in a factory or an assembly line does standardization lead to excellence.” This repulsion of the standardization of our teaching methods and goals is emphasized even more in the Social Studies arena.
Social Studies and Autonomy
I teach in a very diverse community, South Florida. No two children in any of my classes bring the same personal experiences to the table along with their cultural diversity. A child from Germany, and I have several, will not process World War I’s study of the Western Front trenches in the same mode as a child from France or Belgium (I teach one of each). Nor should they expect their goals to be the same. My Belgium and French students are searching their family history and home community to see the lingering impacts of the war and trenches while my German students will be learning to live with his ancestors must like I, as a Southern white, must learn to process and understand the history of my people who owned slaves.
Martin Luther King once said that, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” When students in Social Studies add their character to the processing of slavery or the trail of Tears, they cease the process of being a “common” learner.
Standards for all students are influenced by their culture, geographical location, economic situation, and yes, sometimes whether they had a full meal for dinner last night. What better place to recognize this every important individualism than in a class such as World History where the classroom looks at the behaviors of society relative to their culture, geographic location, and economic situation. Autonomy is the foundation for successful Social Studies classes.
The word autonomy is over-used in education, but under used in the practical field. Simply stated it means the freedom to be you or to express yourself. Teachers and students should embrace autonomy in the classroom. This does not mean that teachers ignore the textbook’s content and spend a year teaching protest songs, but it can mean that that teacher spends more time on protest songs and their effects than a colleague teaching the same subject might spend. You should, as an educator, embrace what you consider to be your specialty such as protest songs and know that spending a reasonable amount of extra time on that focus is more than okay.
Many of you are tied by administrators, districts, and states, which require you to teach to the Common Cores. The good news is that the trend called Common Core Standards is dying, the bad news is that it is dying very slowly. As Allie Bidwell at U.S. News states, “After months of political debates, lawsuits and protests, support is waning for the academic benchmarks as some of the groups that once most strongly backed the standards are turning away, two national surveys released this week show. In its annual poll on the public’s attitude toward public education, PDK International and Gallup found a marked shift in awareness of Common Core. One year ago, two-thirds of those surveyed said they hadn’t heard of the standards. Now, more than three-quarters have heard about Common Core, and it appears that many don’t like what they’ve heard. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they oppose the standards, which have long been embroiled in political controversy.”
Until the time that you are once again given your autonomy within your Social Studies class, so that you can than in turn allow your students their autonomy, take heart that there are some tools, activities, and projects that may allow you to work within your limitations. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by at outoftheboxeducators.wordpress.com and I will gladly share my ideas with you and in turn hope that you will share your ideas with me.