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Social Studies

Social Studies OSPI

OSPI Webpage Excerpt

What is social studies education?
Social studies in Washington State contributes to developing responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, democratic society within an interdependent world. Social studies equips learners to make sound judgments and take appropriate actions that will contribute to sustainable development of human society and the physical environment.

Social studies comprises the study of relationships among people, and between people and the environment. Social studies recognizes the challenges and benefits of living in a diverse cultural and ideological society. The resulting interactions are contextualized in space and time and have social, political, economic, and geographical dimensions.

Based on appropriate investigations and reflections within social studies, students develop distinctive skills and a critical awareness of the human condition and emerging spatial patterns and the processes and events that shape them.

What capacities does the social studies curriculum build in young people?
The social studies curriculum builds the following capacities in young people: disciplinary knowledge; inquiry, interpersonal, and critical thinking skills; respect for the underlying values of a diverse democratic society; interest in public affairs and competencies of self-government. Each capacity contributes uniquely to responsible citizenship.

First, the social studies curriculum builds disciplinary knowledge. Disciplinary knowledge is fundamental for students to construct meaning through understanding powerful ideas drawn primarily from the disciplines of history, geography, civics, and economics.

Second, the social studies curriculum cultivates inquiry, interpersonal, and critical thinking skills. These skills are infused throughout the four social studies disciplines so that students apply the methods of social science to effectively participate in public life. Aided by appropriate technologies, students gather, interpret, and analyze information to be informed citizens. Their ability to engage in civic discourse improves through practice of discussion and interpersonal skills. Critical thinking skills encourage reasoned decisions as well as alternative viewpoints regarding matters of public concern.

Third, the social studies curriculum promotes respect for the underlying values of a diverse democratic society. As a result, students comprehend the ideals of democracy and strive to live their lives in accordance with them. A reasoned commitment to democratic values motivates citizens to safeguard their rights, to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens, and to honor the dignity of all people.

Fourth, the social studies curriculum stimulates interest in public affairs and strengthens competencies of self-government though citizen participation experiences. Students are encouraged to inform themselves about public affairs and to become active participants in civic life rather than passive bystanders. They are urged to uphold the rule of law in their personal and social lives and to challenge wrongdoing. Efforts to understand multiple perspectives about local, national, and international issues are supported by the curriculum. Through activities such as service learning and political action, the social studies curriculum equips students to improve their communities and to realize the civic virtue of serving.

Ultimately, responsible citizenship rests on these capacities. Social studies education for responsible citizenship must be a compelling priority if we expect to sustain our constitutional democracy. The health of our democracy depends on whether young people understand the complexities of human society and can govern themselves competently.

What is responsible citizenship?
A responsible citizen:

  • Uses knowledge of the past to construct meaningful understanding of our history in order to enrich and enlighten our lives. (Historical Perspective)
  • Uses knowledge of geographical concepts, such as spatial patterns and both human and natural systems, to understand processes that impact our world. (Geographic Perspective)
  • Uses knowledge of government, law, and politics to make decisions about and take action on local, national, and international issues to further the public good. (Civic Perspective)
  • Uses knowledge of production, distribution, and consumption within modern economics to make decisions. (Economic Perspective)
  • Uses a wide range of social studies skills, including critical thinking, to investigate and analyze a variety of resources and issues and seek answers. (Critical Thinking Skills)
  • Uses effectively both group process and communication skills to participate in democratic decision making. (Interpersonal and Group Skills

What does the study of social studies provide?
The social studies provides a remarkable opportunity to engage students in the enduring dilemmas embedded in the study of community, family, and society. Examining these dilemmas makes social studies come alive for students and allows them to explore the role of responsible citizen. Through this learning, students model responsible citizenship and are more committed to enhancing the social fabric in which they live.

The social studies provides a unique forum for acquiring historical perspective, practicing respectful processes of engagement, and developing a passion for contributing to the common good of the immediate and larger community.

Compulsory Social Studies-related Course Work and Act

RCW 28A.230.060 – Waiver of course of study in Washington’s history and government.
Students in the twelfth grade who have not completed a course of study in Washington’s history and state government because of previous residence outside the state may have the requirement of RCW 28A.230.090 waived by their principal.

RCW 28A.230.140 – United States flag – Procurement, display, and exercises – National anthem.
The board of directors of every school district shall cause a United States flag being in good condition to be displayed during school hours upon or near every public school plant, except during inclement weather. They shall cause appropriate flag exercises to be held in each classroom at the beginning of the school day, and in every school at the opening of all school assemblies, at which exercises those pupils so desiring shall recite the following salute to the flag: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Students not reciting the pledge shall maintain a respectful silence. The salute to the flag or the national anthem shall be rendered immediately preceding interschool events when feasible.

RCW 28A.230.150 – Temperance and Good Citizenship Day – Aids in Programming.
On January 16th of each year or the preceding Friday when January 16 falls on a non-school day, there shall be observed within each public school “Temperance and Good Citizenship Day”. Annually the state superintendent of public instruction shall duly prepare and publish for circulation among the teachers of the state program for use on such day embodying topics pertinent thereto and may from year to year designate particular laws for special observances.

RCW 28A.230.160 – Educational activities in observance of Veteran’s Day.
During the school week preceding the eleventh day of November of each year, there shall be presented in each common school as defined in RCW 28A.150.020 educational activities suitable to the observance of Veteran’s Day. The responsibility for the preparation and presentation of the activities approximating at least sixty minutes total throughout the week shall be with the principal or head teacher of each school building and such program shall embrace topics tending to instill a loyalty and devotion to the institutions and laws of this state and nation. The superintendent of public instruction and each educational service district superintendent, by advice and suggestion, shall aid in the preparation of these activities if such aid be solicited.

RCW 28A.230.170 – Study of constitutions compulsory – Rules to implement.
The study of the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Washington shall be a condition prerequisite to graduation from the public and private high schools of this state. The state board of education acting upon the advice of the superintendent of public instruction shall provide by rule or regulation for the implementation of this section.