Social studies is defined by the Board of Director of the National Council for the social studies as, the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and neutral sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.
There are two main characteristics of social studies as a field of study. First is social studies promoting civic competence, the knowledge, skill, and attitudes of a student needed to assume “the office of citizen” in our democratic republic. The National Council for the Social Studies considers civic competence as a main goal for social studies. The NCSS says, students who learn these skills in social studies will help shape the future of a democratic society. The second characteristic of social studies is the social studies program, K-12, integrates knowledge, skills, and attitudes within and across disciplines. A third characteristic is one in which social studies programs help students construct a knowledge base and attitudes drawn from academic disciplines as specialized ways of viewing reality. This can be achieved with courses such as, history, geography, political science, sociology, and language arts, English and fine arts. Examples from each help students experience concepts reflectively and actively, through reading, thinking, discussing and writing. The fourth characteristic of the social studies program is the demonstration of the changing nature of knowledge, fostering entirely new and highly integrated approaches to resolving issues of significance to humanity. The social studies program should help students gain knowledge of how to know, how to apply what they know, and how to participate in building a future.
A well designed social studies curriculum will help each student achieve a blend of personal academic, pluralist, and global views of the human condition with a personal perspective, academic perspective, pluralist perspective, and global perspective. A personal perspective will help to explore events and recurring issues, consider implication for self, family, and the while nation and world community. Students should be able to make choices for themselves and others. Students should learn how to construct an academic perspective through study and application of social studies learning experiences. Based on diversity, social studies students should construct a pluralist perspective. A global perspective includes knowledge, skills, and commitments needed to live wisely in a world that possesses limited resources. It involves viewing the world and the people with understanding and concern.
A social studies student will be able to connect knowledge, skills, and values to civic action as they engage in social inquiry. Knowledge is constructed by learners as thy attempt to fit new information, experiences, feeling, and relationships. In social studies educators draw from a number of disciplines to construct circular experiences enabling students to actively relate new knowledge to their existing understanding. For students to be better thinkers and better decision makers, they must have contact with those accustomed to thinking with precision, refinement, and clarity. They should be encouraged to be critical. Skills promoted in an excellent social studies program includes, acquiring information and manipulation data, developing and presenting polices, arguments and stories, constructing new knowledge, and participating in groups. The social studies curriculum focused on how values are formed and how they influence human behavior rather than on building commitment to specific values. The emphasis is placed upon helping students weigh priorities in situations in which a conflict exists between or among values. With each position students will be able to improve the ways in which they deal with persistent issues and dilemmas and participate with others in making decisions about them. Students who pose knowledge, skill, and values are prepared to take appropriate civic action as individuals or as members of groups devoted to civic improvements.
The principles of teaching and learning document which must undergird all social studies programs include, social studies teaching and learning are powerful when they are meaningful, social studies teaching and learning are powerful when they are integrated, social studies teaching and learning are powerful when they are value based, they are powerful when they are challenging and they are powerful when they are active. The document also states additional requirements to support an excellent social studies program which lie beyond the control of the individual teacher. The purpose of the social studies standard is to serve as a frame work for K-12 social studies program, to serve as a guide for curriculum decision, and to provide examples of classroom practice to guide teachers in designing instruction to help students meet performance expectations. They provide criteria for making decisions as curriculum planners and teachers address issues, and how to access whether students and apply what they have learned. The social studies standards are presented as a set of ten thematically based curriculum standards, corresponding sets of performance expectations and illustrations of exemplary teaching and learning to foster students achievements of the standards at each school level. The ten standards for the social studies curriculums at every school level are, One culture; two time, continuity, and change; three people, places, and environments; four individual development and identities; fume individuals, gourd, and institutions; six power, authority, and governance; seven production, distribution, and consumption; eight science, technology, and society; nine global connections; and ten civic ideals and practices.
The NCSS House of Delegates voted in November 1992 to approve the final version of the definition of social studies. NCSS recently issued position statements on curriculum, assessment, teacher education, and professional development. The purposes and goals of social studies are stated in NCSS’s “Essentials of the Social Studies,” it identifies citizenship education as the primary purpose of K-12 social studies. It states that, effective social studies programs prepare young people to identify, understand, and work to solve problems. Assumptions about social studies as a school subject include social studies as diverse, all students should have access to the full richness of the social studies curriculum, teachers need adequate time and resources to teach social studies well at every grade level, and social studies teachers need to treat the social world realistically and address its controversial aspects. The vision of powerful social studies teaching and learning comes from the goals and purposes of social studies, the assumptions, and the available research and scholarships. Social studies teaching and learning is powerful when they are meaningful, integrative, value based, challenging and active, all of which are equally important. Powerful social studies teaching and learning is likely to become more common when assessment approaches at all levels focus on measuring progress toward social understanding and efficacy goals; teachers benefit and education receives support from administrators, parents, the local community, and government agencies; and the nation successfully meets ceratin currently recognizable challenges.