ERIC Number: ED204200
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980-Nov
Defining the Social Studies: What is the Problem?
Engle, Shirley H.
This paper offers three main reasons to explain why social studies lends itself so reluctantly to definition. The first reason is that there is a high degree of ambiguity regarding social studies goals within the social studies profession and among people generally. This ambiguity is characterized by the conflict between the belief that education should teach students to develop critical-thinking skills and the belief that schools should socialize individuals to the circumstances, needs, and opportunities of industrial civilization. The second reason is that there is a lack of clarity in the relationship between social studies and the social sciences. Many social studies educators treat social studies as though they were merely watered-down versions of the social sciences rather than as a more comprehensive intellectual endeavor in which knowledge from many sources can be used to resolve social problems. The third reason is that most social studies educators fail to make necessary distinctions between the role of scholarship and the role of teaching. This lack of distinction results in confusion for several reasons, including that research is necessarily carried on in the hypothetical mood, whereas teaching is usually conducted in the expository mood. The conclusion is that social studies educators will contribute more to a clear and meaningful definition of social studies if they concentrate on identifying major objectives and on describing precisely the kinds of teaching methods which are consistent with those goals. (DB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the National Council for the Social Studies (60th, New Orleans, LA, November 26-29, 1980).