Social Studies for the 21st Century: Why We Oppose OH H.B. No. 322

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Freedom Center Voices
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October 26, 2021

Social Studies for the 21st Century: Why We Oppose OH H.B. No. 322

What do you remember about social studies class? For some of us, we recall a teacher lecturing while we copy a plethora of dates, names, and explanations into notebooks. We were told what happened and why it happened and then took a multiple-choice test. Chances are you found it boring. Ferris Buhler could relate.

Current educators know that this is not how we should teach. Research has shown that students need to be actively engaged: asking questions and making connections to their lives. The goal should not be regurgitation of facts, but meaningful understanding of concepts and the application of discipline specific skills. So why would legislators in Ohio support a bill prohibiting public schools from “requiring the discussion of current events,” and “requiring or awarding course credit for lobbying or other work surrounding social or public policy advocacy?”

Democracy requires the discussion of current events. Citizens need to engage with one another, ask questions, and learn about the world around them to advocate for the issues they deem important. Social studies teachers prepare students for this. They teach how to critically examine a topic by asking questions, seeking multiple perspectives, and examining the credibility of sources. They teach how to generate evidence-based arguments and engage in discussions and debate; civil discourse required in a democracy. Additionally, social studies teachers understand that we study the past to prepare for the future, and effective instruction requires students to make connections between the past and current events.

Democracy also requires citizens to advocate for their wants and needs. A government rooted in the desires of We the people only works if the people make their desires known. Social studies teachers educate students about advocacy to prepare them for civic participation. They encourage student advocacy to foster skills development through hands-on experience; all the while facilitating the application of social studies concepts. Don’t we want students to have real world experiences? Don’t we want a citizenry prepared for civic participation?

The Ohio Department of Education understands this. In fact, educators are required to teach “Historical Thinking and Skills” and “Civic Participation and Skills” at every grade level, K-12, in accordance with Ohio’s Learning Standards: Social Studies. In terms of current events, modern day events and concepts are included in all high school courses including a course dedicated to “Contemporary World Issues.”

Ohio House Bill No. 322 is counterintuitive to social studies instruction for the 21st century. A successful democracy is dependent upon citizens educated for civic participation. Why would you stand in the way of this education? Anyone? Anyone?


Ohio Legislative Service Commission. (2021, June 14). H.B. 322 bill analysis. https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/download?key=17005&format=pdf

Ohio Department of Education. (2018, Feb.) Ohio’s learning standards: Social studies. http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Learning-in-Ohio/Social-Studies/Ohio-s-Learning-Standards-for-Social-Studies/SSFinalStandards01019.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US

 

Dr. Amy Bottomley, Director of Education Initiatives 

Dr. Amy Bottomley is the Director of Educational Initiatives at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She has earned a B.S. in Secondary Education: Social Studies, a M.Ed. in Reading Education, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Amy has taught high school social studies and reading courses in Ohio and Maryland, as well as teacher education courses at the University of Cincinnati. She is dedicated to teaching for social justice and supporting teachers in their pursuit of inclusive classroom practices. Amy can be contacted at (513) 333-7586 or at abottomley@nurfc.org.

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