The Neighborhood is wishing many of our readers the best of luck in beginning the school year.
Being that my school year is a few weeks in coming, I still have time to pontificate at length (as opposed to pontificating at shorter length).
If you’re in a district like mine, especially one that has sipped deep in the Kool-Aid of balanced literacy and the Lucy Calkins’ Writers Workshop, you’ll be given (or asked to derive) a curriculum map detailing the skills and content to be taught over the course of the year. Social studies will need to be woven in somehow, as the hot topic of the day is making everything “interdisciplinary.” Otherwise, some districts have multiple maps for each subject.
Furthermore, the administrators will be nagging you from the first week about getting student work on your bulletin boards. Now, I have my own opinion on bulletin boards, but far be it from me to get my fellow teachers fired over my bullshit. If the boss makes you do one, do it (preferably in social studies, as that’ll make us very happy.)
One of the components of your board—and definitely your curriculum map—will undoubtedly be standards, the benchmarks and guidelines that define student learning in your school, district or state. Never mind that standards aren’t necessarily made with any rhyme or reason—it shows you’re following what the bosses want, makes the adminstrators happy, and shows the students that your methods and content were not derived in an insane asylum, but from a central state policymaking body (similar to an insane asylum).
If you’re in a panic that you can’t find your set of standards in the pile of pattern blocks and assessment binders, fear not. We here in the Neighborhood have compiled resources that have all kinds of social studies standards at your fingertips—even national ones you can use to impress (or insult) your colleagues.
National History Education Clearinghouse Standards Database – Like most of us, I have state standards that need to be addressed; standards that differ from each area of the country. Until we adopt a national standard for history and social studies, we’ll still need these. NHEC has compiled all state standards into a searchable database by grade and state.
New York City Social Studies Scope and Sequence – A couple of years ago, New York City took the state standards and created a sequential curriculum framework for city teachers in social studies. It isn’t perfect, as a very early post of mine shows. However, if you need to do long-term planning, this can definitely provide a template (even if you don’t teach in NYC)
National History Standards – National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA – Back in 1994, the NCHS, with our friend Gary Nash at the help, created among the first national standards for history. Divided into two main strands (K-4 and 5-12), these standards systematically cover the content and skills needed for both United States and world history. Emphasize on the Historical Thinking Standards, which stress higher-order thinking skills that students need in all subjects, not just social studies.
National Council for the Social Studies Curriculum Standards – I only included the introduction because NCSS makes you pay for the whole book (see if your principal or AP has a copy). These NCSS standards are based on ten thematic strands meant to flex with any state basket of content or skill requirements. I would use these more often to complement, not replace, your own state standards (I’d probably do the same with the NCHS standards mentioned before). I’ve also attached a copy of their Teacher Standards for your convenience.
Common Core State Standards Initiative – The Core Standards initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Their goal is adopting common standards in reading and math for all 50 states. Many states have already aligned their own standards to the Core Standards. They tend to be more of the “interdisciplinary” type and not necessarily strictly about social studies.
NCSS Effort to Establish Common Core Standards in Social Studies – these aren’t standards, per se, but rather some information about the NCSS working with the Common Core people to create common standards in social studies for each state. Personally, I don’t think it’ll work, but kudos to them for trying.
Best of luck with these, and send me pictures of your best social studies bulletin boards. Who knows, they just might make it on the Neighborhood in the future!
Summer Reading for Teachers: Forbidden Love: The Hidden History of Mixed Race America
Frederick Douglass, himself of mixed race, with his second wife Helen Pitt Douglass, and their neice Eva.
The strength and flaw of an immigrant society is its heterogeneity.
The societies that sprouted across the American continent were not one-note masses of people, but rather a chorus of different voices that, for good or ill, must learn to live together. For the most part, this mix of people has been a boon to the economic, social and cultural progress of our country.
Unfortunately, in the United States, the concept of races—and their “inherent” differences—has led to an uneasy existence. Different people can work together, live side-by-side, play together. Yet romantic relationships and racial “mixing” was far too often considered taboo.
Yet according to Gary Nash, history professor at UCLA and a friend here at the Neighborhood, mixed-race relationships have a long history in America—and just as long a history of fighting for acceptance in a society preoccupied with racial purity.
Like a previous book of his I reviewed, Professor Nash’s Forbidden Love: The Hidden History of Mixed-Race America offers a window into a world most Americans know little about. In this case, it is the often submerged undercurrent of multiracial family relationships. Nash paints a wide swath, starting with Pocohantas and ending in the multiracial heritage of our current President. Along the way, by identifying the lives of extraordinary mixed-race Americans, he shows the currents of race and racial identity that have prevailed in this country.
Nash writes that the early history of the United States showed great promise for an interracial society, or at least one where race was less relevant than it would become centuries later. Yet due to the settler nature of North America—as opposed to the conquistador/exploitation model of Central and South America—the United States would populate itself with whole families who saw survival, especially ethnic/racial purity, as paramount to their existence.
This obsession with racial purity would prevail well into the first half of the 20th century. It dictated how white America would deal with millions of Africans, once enslaved and later as free persons. It also determined the relationship between European settlement and Native Americans who predated them on this continent. Finally, the need for racial purity would affect how America received millions of immigrants from Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Nash’s choice of subjects covers many ethnic groups and various periods of American history. He starts with Pocohantas’ marriage to the Virginia planter John Rolfe, and also includes maritime entrepreneur Paul Cuffe, the Healy family (also discussed in a previous post), Elizabeth Hulme, Peggy Rusk, and of course Eldrick “Tiger” Woods. In each, their lives are juxtaposed with the rising and ebbing tide of racial rigidity and consciousness in this country, culminating in the election of a multiracial President in 2008.
One particular area that Nash sheds light on is the 18th century Mexican paintings known as “casta” paintings, and how they reflect racial mixture and hierarchy in Spanish America. These didactic paintings demonstrate the nomenclature of the union of persons of different racial makeup, i.e. a Spaniard and a black woman make a mulatto; a Spaniard and a native woman make a mestizo, etc. I remember seeing something similar in a textbook on a visit to Ecuador, yet I was astonished at the bewildering permutations—and labels—that categorized the racial makeup of colonial Mexico.
However, this open demonstration of racial mingling did not mean racial equality. The lack of Spanish females, larger populations of native and black persons, coupled with a Catholic Church that had a more permissive view of interracial marriage meant a more fluid mixing of peoples. Yet according to Nash, this mixing would not mean the end of racism:
Unlike his last book we reviewed, The Unknown American Revolution, Forbidden Love makes a remarkably seamless addition to a high school classroom syllabus. This is largely due to its imprimatur, the National Center for History in the Schools, of which Professor Nash is director. NCHS works to connect academic scholarship in history with classroom instruction at all grade levels.
In the case of Forbidden Love, the book was revised from its original 1999 version to both add a modern prospective and to make it more suitable for the classroom. Although the book bursts with the hefty research worthy of an academic tome, its tone, vocabulary and short length make this material easily accessible to high schoolers. Even more impressive are the discussion questions located near the end. Each chapter contains these useful questions to continue discussion and to offer differentiation for various student groups.
In the multi-racial populations of students in America, research and biographies like those found in Forbidden Love are more crucial than ever. Many cities have populations where racial intermingling has been the norm for centuries, and are now coming into contact with American populations where interracial acceptance has been halting, at best.
People like Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, etc. are demystifying what it means to be multiracial in America. As Professor Nash shows, Americans have been mixing together long before they gained acceptance in the wider society. Race, says Nash, is an artificial categorization that has no basis in science. It should, therefore, be natural for humans to accept when races mix and procreate.
It’s a shame it took so long to reach that acceptance.
NOTE: Any teachers and students wishing to read the newest edition of Forbidden Love can order a copy by contacting Marian Olivas, Program Coordinator at the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA — email@example.com
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