It’s easy to get swept up into popular trends when writing curriculum. More difficult still is being one of the people swimming against the current. Standardization in the 1990s eventually gave way to the accountability movement of the NCLB years, and now professional curriculum writers are being inundated with yet another new and unique environment wherein state and local governments are re-exerting curricular autonomy. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction to these changes, here are five important misconceptions for Social Studies writers to correct.
Misconception #1—Ignore the “Hype”
The visceral response to new trends is to dismiss them out of hand as “newfangled” and short-lived—both of which may well be true. However, I’m challenging my fellow writers to take a different tack. Observe and consume as much trendy material as you can. If you take the time to experience and evaluate these fads, then not only can you incorporate something you unexpectedly found useful, but you can also be on more solid footing about why you rejected something else.
Misconception #2—Monopoly on Social Studies Writing
Every Social Studies curriculum writer has at least one prominent role model in the field who is either a fellow writer or subject matter expert. One of mine is Dr. Carol Berkin, a curriculum expert, scholar, and History Channel rock star in U.S. History. I’ve learned a great deal about revolutionary era history from her one-of-a-kind expert lens. Think of other great names like George Edwards and H.W. Brands—what do they all have in common? Every writer has something unique, either in story or lens, to contribute. But if we leave all of the heavy lifting to our heroes then we’re doing a disservice to the field. I prefer to stand on the shoulders of giants.
Misconception #3—Gleaning From the Surface Is Enough
When Social Studies writers sit down to a blank page, they have to determine early on whether the curriculum assignment is something that has been done [well] before. Unique assignments require research beyond perusing existing material. The first draft of a new curriculum module usually includes the information most conveniently available to the writer; however, the true gleaning expert understands that there is still a lot of perfectly ripe fruit out there for the taking.
Misconception #4—Economics Means the Same in Vermont as it Does in Idaho
An economics curriculum writer receives an assignment for a late secondary economics course. The natural assumption is that the course is a mix of macro and micro economics, as well as fundamentals about finance. Unbeknownst to the writer, this particular school or district used the umbrella term “economics” for its new personal finance and financial literacy curriculum. As more states adopt basic financial literacy and personal finance curricula, it’s important to remember that Social Studies disciplines can be outlined in blurry gray lines instead of clear black and white boundaries.
Misconception #5—Choose the Right Tools for the Job
I’ve seen it become almost implicit that all Social Studies content should include multimedia components. It’s difficult to find white space that isn’t chock-full of “Click Here” hyperlinks. Technology is a wonderful supplement to good curriculum, but it represents one type of supplement among many. There are times when the best supplement to a discussion of the ancient land and ice bridge across the Bering Strait is simply a two-dimensional map. In much the same way you wouldn’t use a hammer to install a screw, there is no need to interject technology when it isn’t the appropriate tool. Let the supplements enhance and complement the curriculum instead of the other way around.
More Blog Posts