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Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:30 AM

Social Studies Facts American Students Should Know: The American Government and Geography Edition

This is what happens when we don't test Social Studies.

As a 6th-12th grade social studies teacher for the past 6 years, I have seen my fair share of students. I taught high school during a time of many standards changes were taking place here in Georgia. I would get a group of high school students who always claimed that they didnít remember (or they werenít taught the basic information in elementary or middle school that would help them succeed in high school. They would say think like:

ďI donít know my 50 states. There are seven continents? We have a president? When is Independence Day? Whatís a constitution? Why didnít they just leave their country if they didnít like it so much? Who is George Washington?Ē
However, when I moved down to middle school, I realized that the students may not be grasping information, previously had an indifferent social studies teacher, or was just trying to get out of answering my questions. That being said, when you watch some American teenager struggling to answer basic social studies facts, it can be kind of embarrassing. So today, I want to start a discussion. I want to offer my suggestions for social studies facts every student in America should know. Note: These are not in any particular order.

The 50 States and Their Capitals

Every time I taught American Government, Civics, or World Geography to high school students, I always opened with a test over the 50 states and capitals. The first time I gave this test I received answers that just blew me away. Did you know that Austria, England, Germany, and Asia are all part of the United States, and that Delaware is capital of Texas? Okay, I understand that some of my students may have legitimately not known the information previously, but those answers came from kids who should have know better (many from upper level students)!

Students should know the 50 states and capitals because they need to know as much as possible about the country they live in. Every American student should know not only the capital of their home state, but also the other stateís capitals ! No one can persuade me that this is not important information to understand.

more . . . http://theeducatorsroom.com/2012/10/social-studies-facts-american-students-should-know-american-government-and-geography-edition/

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Reply Social Studies Facts American Students Should Know: The American Government and Geography Edition (Original post)
proud2BlibKansan Jan 2013 OP
Still Sensible Jan 2013 #1
Cirque du So-What Jan 2013 #2
Igel Jan 2013 #3
MindPilot Jan 2013 #5
proud2BlibKansan Jan 2013 #7
Nevernose Jan 2013 #4
Ron Obvious Jan 2013 #6

Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:44 AM

1. Absolutely agree on these items...and

over the years, I have become most disappointed in two things:

The decline in student writing ability--I have seen many in the workplace that can barely string together a written thought coherently.

The absence of what we used to call Civics classes.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:50 AM

2. My recollection of high-school American History (a required class for juniors, BTW)

It was taught by the boy's basketball coach, who spent half the class dryly and disconnectedly reciting dates and events - the other half of the period in the teacher's lounge, smoking, joking & flirting with female teachers on break. Every test was of the matching-column 'A'-with-column 'B' type, 26 Q&A per test, 'cause it's the number of letters in the alphabet, yunno. I never cracked a book the entire semester and used most of the period - even when he was actually present in the classroom - sitting upright with my head slumped forward in an oftentimes deep sleep. If I wasn't sure about an answer, I peered over the shoulder of the guy sitting in front of me and usually got the correct answer. This was complicated only slightly by test papers being distributed randomly, although the same questions were present on all tests, albeit in different order. Between using what I already knew and copying off my neighbor, I ended the semester with a solid 'B.'

It's not that I disliked American history - quite the contrary. It's just that I preferred reading on my own instead of rote memorization within a framework of unabashed revisionism. Having a teacher who just didn't give a shit wasn't exactly conducive to a productive learning environment either.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:47 PM

3. And this is what happens when you don't test science or math.

You get a 17-year-old sexually active girl who believed that females produced sperm and males produced eggs. She wasn't sure how it was that females could even get pregnant.

You get a 16-year-old physics student who denies that people are made of atoms and molecules. Desks, animals, planets--sure. But people are special.

You get a 17-year-old physics student who thinks that water is a chemical element.

"Does the Earth revolve around the Sun or does the Sun revolve around the Earth?" "The Sun revolves around the Earth. We're more important."

I asked my class what what some number plus zero was. A quarter of them reached for their calculators. They couldn't say that 10.1 + 0 was, well, 10.1. I teach juniors and seniors. In high school. Who supposedly have all had Algebra I at least once.

If work = force x distance, and you don't change force or distance, you can still get a different number for work. If you have 23 N force and 3 meters, that's 69 N-s. This time. It might be different next time. Even if they punch the numbers into their calculators (not 1 in 2 can do the math in their heads) a fair percentage still thinks that number might change. Oddly, to a person they knew that if you make $10/hr and work 5 hours, your gross pay will be $50. And that unless you get a raise or work more hours, that number will never increase.

Oh. Wait. We *do* test science and math. Some weeks it seems like that's *all* we do.

1. Relevance. We've let them swallow the Big Lie that if it's not relevant to them, personally, and right now, it's useless information. And for some, anything a middle-aged white male says is, by definition, irrelevant to their lives.
2. Belief that they need to know nothing except "Google" and what their best friend's going to be doing Friday night. Google = brains.
3. The belief that good grades result from "being smart." Hard work and effort don't matter.
4. Exalting youthful rebellion as an end in itself. Even as students enforce a fairly strict code of uniformity.
5. To the extent that students don't enforce a code of uniformity, it's not tolerance. It's indifference. The results are easy to confuse, but once is a virtue and the other an evil.

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Response to Igel (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 01:16 PM

5. that whole doing arithmatic in your head thing...

It may not be a lack of education, it may be that they just can't.

I have only recently figured out that part of my brain just doesn't work. No matter how hard I tried, and still try to this day, decades later, I cannot add, subtract or divide in my head. I get by simply having remembered a lot of common results. I know 2+2=4 and 3x5=15, not because I can do the calculation, but simple rote memory.

Oh I can do math, in fact i kind of enjoy it. I completely understand the relationships, Algebra, geometry, calculus, I can completely comprehend it. But if you wanted me to simplfy (3)28q, I couldn't do that without a calculator or a scratch pad. And since i could never do the arithmatec fast enough to get though any test beyond basic algebra kind of limited my educational opportuniites.

So you can imagine what it was like when I had to go to board and do a problem. I just couldn't do it. My mother thought I was lazy and my teachers I guess assumed the same.

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Response to Igel (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 06:57 PM

7. Math is tested

Science is not tested in every state.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:54 PM

4. One HALF of my 11th graders identified MLK

As either "the first black president" or "the man who freed the slaves." That was just this week, when we took a pretest before reading/discussing his letter from Birmingham.

It's like this every year, and I am constantly shocked that so many people have made it through a dozen years of public education and in many cases to legal adulthood, and still don't know who the hell Marrin Luther King was.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 01:24 PM

6. I don't doubt the dismal state of knowledge in HS students...

I don't doubt the dismal state of knowledge of the average HS student out there, but I do always wonder when I see articles like this what percentage of students just finds it amusing to give the most ridiculous answers on tests like this, and how much of an influence they are.

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