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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 didn't remember (or they weren't taught the basic information in elementary or middle school that would help them succeed in high school. They would say think like:
“I don’t know my 50 states. There are seven continents? We have a president? When is Independence Day? What’s a constitution? Why didn't they just leave their country if they didn't like it so much? Who is George Washington?”
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 state's capitals ! No one can persuade me that this is not important information to understand.
The Three Branches of Government and Their Basic Functions
Please, ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t know these, look them up. Too many times, there are people on the news, yelling about the failures of the President, Congress, and Supreme Court, not realizing that they are getting the duties and powers of the branches mixed up. An understanding of these basic parts of government could help our students have a better understanding of our government. This is important to their future as citizens participating in our government
The Bill of Rights and Additional Rights Given by Amendments
If I asked my aunt, who came to America as an immigrant and is now a naturalized citizen, what rights the Bill of Rights her and what rights she has as a citizen, she would be able to tell you. She had to know this basic information otherwise she may not have passed part of her naturalization test. Students need to know what rights Americans have, not just for learning’s sake, but to appreciate what they have compared to countries that do not give their citizens many rights. In addition, they also need to know when they can (and should) practice those rights. This is so very important to the success of our country.
Number of Representatives Allowed in House of Representatives and Senate
Students listen to their parents when it comes to matters of politics, but students need to know who represents them in Congress and how many are even allowed in Congress. If they know this info, they know who to write, call, email, etc. if there is something they disagree about a policy, comment, etc. It’s just good citizenship.
What do you think?
There are so many facts that students should know in social studies that I am splitting this up into a multi-article series. If you have anything to add, feel free to email me suggestions at email@example.com or comment below. At the end of my series, I want to put your suggestions and reasons why. It is important as educators, parents, students, etc. to make social studies important.