Tag Archives: social studies education

Peter Seixas talk: Dangerous indeed: A response to Wayne Ross’ “Courage of hopelessness”

Date: Friday, February 26th 2016
Venue: Scarfe Room 310
Time: 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.
Title: Dangerous indeed: A response to Wayne Ross’ “Courage of hopelessness”
Speaker: Dr. Peter Seixas, Professor, EDCP

Light lunch served at noon outside Scarfe room 310. The Lecture commences at 12:30 pm. There is no need to RSVP.

Abstract:
Yes, yes, the past gets in the way; it trips us up, bogs us down; it complicates, makes difficult. But to ignore this is folly, because, above all, what history teaches us is to avoid illusion and make-believe, to lay aside dreams, moonshine, cure-alls, wonder-workings, pie-in-the-sky—to be realistic.
–Tom Crick, the history teacher, in Graham Swift’s Waterland, p. 108

In his EDCP Seminar on January 15, Dr. Wayne Ross challenged commonplace notions of schools, teacher education, the subject of social studies, democracy and freedom. In this talk (text, video, powerpoint), I review the arguments and confront them as a colleague—in the department, in social studies education, and in the project of educating teachers for British Columbia schools. As the basis of my critique, I offer a theoretical framework through the concept of “historical agency,” which calls attention to the abilities of people to act individually and collectively to shape the course of history, as well as the limitations on those abilities. It offers a way to steer a course between the two closely related traps of hopelessness and utopianism. I sketch its utility specifically in relation to 1) understanding our own social and political situation, 2) thinking about the role of schools and teachers in democratic societies, 3) developing useful curriculum and pedagogy in Canada today, 4) educating student teachers in the Faculty of Education, and 5) conducting educational research that matters.

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The Courage of Hopelessness: Democratic Education in the Age of Empire [Video]

banner seminar for web

Dr. E. Wayne Ross| Professor, EDCP

January 15, 2016

Short Bio:
E. Wayne Ross is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC. He has written and edited numerous books including: Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies and Social Education (Sense, 2010); The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems and Possibilities (4th Ed., SUNY Press, 2014) and Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom (Peter Lang, 2016). He also edits the journals Critical Education, Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, and Cultural Logic.

Abstract:
In this talk I argue there is a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality of democracy in North America that subverts traditional approaches to democratic education. The tropes that have historically dominated the discourse on democracy and democratic education now amount to selling students (and ourselves) a lie about history and contemporary life. Our challenge is to re-imagine our roles as educators and find ways to create opportunities for students to create meaningful personal understandings of the world. Education is not about showing life to people, but bringing them to life. The aim is not getting students to listen to convincing lectures by experts, but getting them to speak for themselves in order to achieve, or at least strive for an equal degree of participation and a more democratic, equitable, and justice future. This requires a new mindset, something I call dangerous citizenship.

Reassessing the Social Studies Curriculum: Preparing Students for a Post-9/11 World

Wayne Journell, secondary social studies education professor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, has put together a new book on social studies in a post-9/11 world.

The book, to be published by Rowman & Littlefield next year, examines social studies curriculum from a wide-range of perspectives (see the Table of Contents below). The book will be a unique contribution to the fields social studies and curriculum studies.

A draft version of my chapter is available to read at the link below.

Table of Contents

Foreword
Margaret Smith Crocco

Preface
Michael J. Berson and Ilene R. Berson

Introduction: September 11, 2001: The Day that Changed the World . . . But Not the Curriculum
Wayne Journell

Chapter 1: International Conflict and National Destiny: World War I and History Teaching
Keith C. Barton

Chapter 2: 9/11 and the War on Terror in American Secondary Curriculum Fifteen Years Later
Jeremy Stoddard and Diana Hess

Chapter 3: Including 9/11 in the Elementary Grades: State Standards, Digital Resources, and Children’s Books
Elizabeth Bellows

Chapter 4: How Patriotism Matters in U.S. Social Studies Classrooms Fifteen Years After 9/11
Mark T. Kissling

Chapter 5: National Identity and Citizenship in a Pluralistic Society: Educators’ Messages Following 9/11 and Charlie Hebdo
Lisa Gilbert

Chapter 6: The Courage of Hopelessness: Creative Disruption of Everyday Life in the Classroom
E. Wayne Ross

Chapter 7: Civil Liberties, Media Literacy, and Civic Education in the Post-9/11 Era: Helping Students Think Conceptually in Order to Act Civically
Stephen S. Masyada and Elizabeth Yeager Washington

Chapter 8: Role-Playing and Role-Dropping: Political Simulations as Portals to Pluralism in a Contentious Era
Jane C. Lo and Walter C. Parker

Chapter 9: The Psychology of Controversial Issues Discussions: Challenges and Opportunities in a Polarized, Post-9/11 Society
Christopher H. Clark and Patricia G. Avery

Afterword
Ron Evans

 

 

Schooling Corporate Citizens: A Conversation with Ronald W. Evans

Fireside Chat with Ron Evans on Education Reform, Social Studies, and Democratic Citizenship, Hosted By E. Wayne Ross 

This conservation with Ron Evans was conducted in the plenary session of the 2015 retreat of College and University Faculty Assembly of National Council for the Social Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte on January 16, 2015. Evans discusses his new book, Schooling Corporate Citizens, the politics of education reform and how that recent reforms have affected the (official) nature and purposes of social studies education, his approach to research and writing, and life in the academy.

Introductions

Ron Evans is a leading authority on social studies and curriculum history. His book The Social Studies Wars was named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2004 by Choice Magazine. His biography of controversial progressive educator Harold O. Rugg, This Happened in America, won the 2008 Exemplary Research Award from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). His book The Hope for American School Reform, on the origins and development of the new social studies of the 1960s, also won the Exemplary Research Award from NCSS (2011). He founded the Issues Centered Education Community of NCSS in 1988. Currently, he is a Professor in the School of Teacher Education at San Diego State University.  He lives in the San Diego area with his wife, two children, and a cat.

E. Wayne Ross is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. His books include The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems, and Possibilities Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies and Social Education.

 Listen to the interview here (audio starts a minute or two into the interview):

Books by Ron Evans:

Schooling Corporate Citizens: How Accountability Reform has Damaged Civic Education and Undermined Democracy (2015)

The Hope for American School Reform: The Cold War Pursuit of Inquiry Learning in Social Studies (2011)

The Tragedy of American School Reform: How Curriculum Politics and Entrenched Dilemmas Have Diverted Us From Democracy (2011)

This Happened in America: Harold Rugg and The Censure of Social Studies (2007)

The Social Studies Wars: What Should We Teach The Children? (2004)

The Handbook of Teaching Social Issues (1996) 

Questions

How did you come to write Schooling for Corporate Citizens?

What motivates your work?

How did you come to write this book?

What motivates your work?

What sources did you draw on?

Where do you do your writing?

Describe your daily routine.

Describe how you do your research. Did you have formal training in archival research?

You’ve written four previous books of curriculum/social studies history, what did you learn from writing Schooling for Corporate Citizens?

Looking back across your books on curriculum history and education reform in the 20th and 21st centuries, you’ve trace the corporate/capitalist agenda in school reform and it’s anti-democratic, anti-community consequences:

  • Do you still have faith in schools to promote democracy / democratic citizenship?
  • Did you find out anything that surprised you?  That excited you?  That disappointed you?

How does a boy from Oklahoma who slacked his way through college end up doing all this work as a teacher/scholar in social studies?

What do you do when you’re not writing?

 

Your social studies teacher is wrong, the United States is not a democracy

No, this is not some arcane argument about democratic versus republican forms of government. Rather it is the conclusion of what has been described as the first ever scientific study of the question of whether the United States is a democracy.

The study, by Martin Gilens, a professor of politics at Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page, a political scientist at Northwestern University, is titled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” and will be published in the fall 2014 issue of Perspectives on Politicsan APSA journal.

The study aims to answer the questions “Who governs? Who really rule? To what extent is the broad body of U.S. citizens sovereign, semi-sovereign, or largely powerless” by examining a huge data set that addresses thousands of policy issues.

Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics – which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, and two types of interest group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism – offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented.

A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. (p. 2)

The findings provide “substantial support” for theories of Economic Elite Domination and Biased Pluralism, in short the U.S. is found to be an oligarchy. No surprise really, unless you’ve had your eyes wide shut for the past 40 years. While the political and media elites, capitalists and other oligarchs (along with social studies textbooks and teachers) continue to promote the fiction that the U.S. is a democracy, this study concludes that the average citizens’ influence on policy making is “near zero.” So, don’t bother writing that letter to your “representative.”

The researchers used a single statistical model to pit the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other using a unique data set that included measures for key independent variables on policy issues. Their “striking findings,” include “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy” (p. 21).

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threaten. (p.24)

While some critically minded observers may claim that this study only confirms what we already know, we should not underestimate the importance—and pedagogical power—of this empirical investigation of democracy in the U.S.. which puts a lie the most powerful trope of school curriculum and mass media propaganda. The U.S. is not democracy;  the central features of American democracy are illusory.

The narrative of “American democracy” promulgated in schools and in the media is distraction from the triumph of neoliberal capitalism and the rule of oligarchs.  If we—social studies educators—are truly committed to the principles and practices of social equality it requires engaging with our students in systematic analysis and inquiry into our present circumstances (as well as historicizing preconditions of the present). From that point we can start to pose questions and envision tactics, strategies, and grand strategies that point toward resolution of problems/contradictions our analyses identify. This study presents findings that will surely provoke dialogue about (and deconstruction of) of what currently passes for “democracy” in the U.S., and, one hopes, inspires not merely more powerful teaching, but actions to reclaim/remake the political landscape.

New edition of “The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems, and Possibilities” in production

I’m very pleased to announce that the Fourth Edition of the The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems, and Possibilities is now in production at The State University of New York Press and will be available in 2014.

This fourth edition includes 12 new chapters on: the history of the social studies; creating spaces for democratic social studies; citizenship education; anarchist inspired transformative social studies; patriotism; ecological democracy; Native studies; inquiry teaching; Islamophobia; capitalism and class struggle; gender, sex, sexuality and youth experiences in school; and critical media literacy. Chapters carried over from the Third Edition, which was published in 2006, have been substantially revised and updated, including those: on teaching in the age of curriculum standardization and high-stakes testing; critical multicultural social studies; prejudice and racism, assessment; and teaching democracy.

As with previous editions——the first edition of The Social Studies Curriculum was published in 1997 and the Revised Edition was released in 2001——the aim of this collection of essays is to challenge readers to reconsider their assumptions and understandings of the origins, purposes, nature, and possibilities of the social studies curriculum.

A fundamental assumption of this collection is that the social studies curriculum is much more than subject matter knowledge—a collection of facts and generalizations from history and the social science disciplines to be passed on to students. The curriculum is what students experience. It is dynamic and inclusive of the interactions among students, teachers, subject matter and the social, cultural, economic and political contexts education. The true measure of success in any social studies course or program will be found in its effects on individual students’ thinking and actions as well as the communities to which students belong. Teachers are the key component in any curriculum improvement and it is our hope that this book provides social studies teachers with perspectives, insights, and knowledge that are beneficial in their continued growth as professional educators.

I am very appreciative to all the authors who wrote chapters for this and previous editions of the book, including: Jane Bernard-Powers, Margaret Smith Crocco, Abraham DeLeon, Terrie Epstein, Ronald W. Evans, Linda Farr Darling, Stephen C. Fleury, Four Arrows (aka Don T. Jacobs), Kristi Fragnoli, Rich Gibson, Neil O. Houser, David W. Hursh, Kevin Jennings, Gregg Jorgensen, Lisa Loutzenheiser, Joseph Kahne, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Christopher R. Leahey, Curry Stephenson Malott, Perry M. Marker, Sandra Mathison, Cameron McCarthy, Merry Merryfield, Jack L. Nelson, Nel Noddings, Paul Orlowski, Valerie Ooka Pang, J. Michael Peterson, Marc Pruyn, Greg Queen, Frances Rains, David Warren Saxe, Doug Selwyn, Özlem Sensoy, Binaya Subedi, Brenda Trofanenko, Kevin D. Vinson, Walter Werner, Joel Westheimer, and Michael Whelan. Each of one of these contributors are exemplary scholars and educators and their work has had a tremendous impact on my own thinking and practice as well as many other educators.

Contents
The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems, and Possibilities
(4th Edition)

Preface

Part I: Purposes of the Social Studies Curriculum

1. Social Studies Curriculum Migration: Confronting Challenges in the 21st Century
Gregg Jorgensen, Western Illinois University

2. Social Studies Curriculum and Teaching in the Age of Standardization
E. Wayne Ross, University of British Columbia
Sandra Mathison, University of British Columbia
Kevin D. Vinson, The University of the West Indies

3. Creating Authentic Spaces for Democratic Social Studies Education
Christopher R. Leahey, North Syracuse (NY) Public Schools & SUNY Oswego

4. “Capitalism is for the Body, Religion is for the Soul”: Insurgent Social Studies for the 22nd Century
Abraham P. DeLeon, University of Texas, San Antonio

Part II: Social Issues and the Social Studies Curriculum

5. Dangerous Citizenship
E. Wayne Ross, University of British Columbia
Kevin D. Vinson, The University of the West Indies

6. Teaching Students to Think About Patriotism
Joel Westheimer, University of Ottawa

7. Ecological Democracy: An Environmental Approach to Citizenship Education
Neil O. Houser, University of Oklahoma

8. Native Studies, Praxis, and The Public Good
Four Arrows, Fielding Graduate University

9. Marxism and Critical Multicultural Social Studies Education: Redux
Curry Malott, West Chester University
Marc Pruyn, Monash University

10. Prejudice, Racism, and the Social Studies Curriculum
Jack L. Nelson, Rutgers University
Valerie Ooka Pang, San Diego State University

11. The Language of Gender, Sex, and Sexuality and Youth Experiences in Schools
Lisa Loutzenheiser, University of British Columbia

Part III: The Social Studies Curriculum in Practice

12. Making Assessment Work for Teaching and Learning
Sandra Mathison, University of British Columbia

13. Why Inquiry?
Doug Selwyn, SUNY Plattsburgh

14. Beyond Fearing the Savage: Responding to Islamophobia in the Classroom
Özlem Sensoy, Simon Fraser University

15. Class Struggle in the Classroom
Greg Queen, Fitzgerald Senior High School (Warren, MI)

16. Critical Media Literacy and Social Studies
Paul Orlowski, University of Saskatchewan

17. Teaching Democracy: What Schools Need to Do
Joseph Kahne, Mills College
Joel Westheimer, University of Ottawa

Part IV: Conclusion

18. Remaking the Social Studies Curriculum
E. Wayne Ross, University of British Columbia

Coring the Social Studies within Corporate Education Reform

Critical Education has just published its latest issue at http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled. We invite you to review the Table of Contents here and then visit our web site to review articles and items of interest.

Thanks for the continuing interest in our work,
Stephen Petrina
Sandra Mathison
E. Wayne Ross
Institute for Critical Education Studies
University of British Columbia
wayne.ross@ubc.ca

Critical Education
Vol 4, No 5 (2013)
Table of Contents
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled/issue/view/182404

Articles
——–

Coring the Social Studies within Corporate Education Reform: The Common Core State Standards, Social Justice, and the Politics of Knowledge in U.S.
Schools
Wayne Au, University of Washington, Bothell

Coring the Social Studies within Corporate Education Reform: The Common Core State Standards, Social Justice, and the Politics of Knowledge in U.S. Schools
Wayne Au

Abstract

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been adopted in 45 U.S. states. Driven by a wide coalition that includes both major U.S. political parties, the business elite, for-profit education corporations, cultural conservatives, and both major U.S. teachers’ unions, the CCSS have mainly garnered glowing praise in mainstream U.S. media and widespread acceptance amongst political figures and public school districts nationwide. This paper undertakes a critical analysis of the origins and political tensions found within the CCSS, arguing that the CCSS will inevitably lead to restrictive high-stakes, standardized testing similar to that associated with No Child Left Behind. Further this paper specifically examines the treatment of the social studies within the context of CCSS and questions the likely outcomes of the recently drafted College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards within the current political and cultural context of the United States.

Keywords

Social Justice; Common Core; Curriculum; Education Reform

Revista de Enseñanza de las Ciencias Sociales: Education for Dangerous Citizenship

Last February I had the privilege of presenting the keynote address to IX International Conference on Research in Teaching Social Science organized by Research Group on Teaching of Social Sciences at the Faculty of Education Sciences, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain.

The talk I gave in Barcelona was based on work I have been doing in collaboration with Kevin D. Vinson (University of the West Indies) and a paper based on the Barcelona talk has just been published by Revista de Enseñanza de las Ciencias Sociales (Journal of Social Science Education), which is jointly published by the Institute of Educational Sciences of the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Here is the abstract:

Revista de Enseñanza de las Ciencias Sociales
Volume 2012 No. 11 December 2012

LA EDUCACIÓN PARA UNA CIUDADANÍA PELIGROSA
E. Wayne Ross y Kevin D. Vinson

El concepto de educación pública se encuentra bajo la influencia de las imágenes dominantes y dominadoras más que en la autentica comprensión de la complejidad de las realidades diarias del aula. Basándose en los trabajos de Debord y Foucault, especialmente en sus visiones libertarias y antiestáticas del poder, de la autoridad y del control en la sociedad contemporánea, este artículo examina cómo el control social se ejerce a través de las imágenes dominantes y una mezcla de vigilancia y espectáculo. En respuesta a estas condiciones, desarrollamos el concepto de «ciudadanía peligrosa». Reclamamos que las condiciones contemporáneas requieren de una Educación para la Ciudadanía antiopresiva, que se tome en serio las desigualdades sociales y económicas, y la opresión fruto del capitalismo neoliberal que restringe las posibilidades antiopresivas y establece unas pedagogías oficiales y sancionadoras. El poder pedagógico de la ciudadanía peligrosa reside: 1) en la capacidad de alentar al alumnado y al profesorado sobre las implicaciones de su propia enseñanza y aprendizaje; 2) en visualizar una educación focalizada en la libertad y en la democracia, y 3) en interrogar y deconstruir sus bienintencionadas complicidades con el sistema a partir de prácticas y textos culturales, especialmente para relacionar las condiciones opresivas con las prácticas culturales del mismo estilo, y viceversa.

EDUCATION FOR DANGEROUS CITIZENSHIP
Conceptualizations of public schooling rest upon the influence of dominant and dominating images rather than on more authentic understandings of the complex realities of classroom life. Drawing upon the work of both Debord and Foucault, particularly their libertarian and anti-statist visions of power, authority, and control in contemporary society, this article examines how social control is exercised via controlling images and a merger of surveillance and spectacle. In response to these conditions we develop the concept of “dangerous citizenship.” We argue that contemporary conditions demand an anti-oppressive citizenship education, one that takes seriously social and economic inequalities and oppression that result from neoliberal capitalism and that builds upon the anti-oppressive possibilities of established and officially sanctioned pedagogies. The pedagogical power dangerous citizenship resides in its capacity to encourage students and educators to challenge the implications of their own education/instruction, to envision an education that is free and democratic to the core, and to interrogate and uncover their own well-intentioned complicity in the conditions within which various cultural texts and practices appear, especially to the extent that oppressive conditions create oppressive cultural practices, and vice versa.

Social control and the pursuit of dangerous citizenship

Last month I gave the keynote address at the Ninth International Conference on Research in Teaching of Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain). Organized by GREDICS (Research Group on the Teaching of Social Sciences) this year’s conference theme was “The Formation of Social Thought and the Construction of Democracy in the Teaching of Social Science, Geography, and History.”

While in Barcelona, I also had the pleasure of participating, along with social studies researchers from Colombia, France, and Brazil, in two seminars for the students and faculty at AUB, which focused on recent topics of and methods for conducting research in social studies, geography, and history education.

My talk, titled “Social Control and the Pursuit of Dangerous Citizenship”, can be streamed online here (translated to Catalan).

The PowerPoint presentation of my talk is available in English, Spanish, and Catalan.

The abstract of my talk follows:

Social Control and the Pursuit of Dangerous Citizenship

Yes, citizenship—above all in a society like ours, of such authoritarian and racially, sexually, and class-based discriminatory traditions—is really an invention, a political production. In this sense, one who suffers any [or all] of the discriminations…does not enjoy the full exercise of citizenship as a peaceful and recognized right. On the contrary, it is a right to be reached and whose conquest makes democracy grow substantively. Citizenship implies freedom…Citizenship is not obtained by chance: It is a construction that, never finished, demands we fight for it. It demands commitment, political clarity, coherence, decision. For this reason a democratic education cannot be realized apart from an education of and for citizenship. (Paulo Freire, Teachers as Cultural Workers, p. 90)

The nature of citizenship and the meanings of citizenship education are complex, as are their multiple and contradictory implications for contemporary schooling and everyday life. The issues citizenship education presents are critical and inexorably linked to the present and future status of public schooling and the maintenance, strengthening, and expansion of individual and democratic rights.

In his classic book Democracy and Education (1916), John Dewey opens with a discussion of the way in which all societies use education as a means of social control. Dewey argues that education as a social process and function has no definite meaning until we define the kind of society we have in mind. In other words, there is no “objective” answer to questions about the means and ends of citizenship education, because those purposes are not things that can be discovered.

In Normative Discourse, Paul Taylor (1961) succinctly states a maxim that has the potential to transform our approach to the civics, citizenship education and the whole of the social studies curriculum: “We must decide what ought to be the case. We cannot discover what ought to be the case by investigating what is the case” (p. 278). We—educators and citizens—must decide what ought to be the purpose of citizenship education. That means asking what kind of society, what kind of and world we want to live in and then taking action to make it a reality. And, in particular, in what sense of democracy do we want this to be a democratic society? In order to construct meaning for civics and citizenship education, we must engage these questions not as merely abstract or rhetorical, but in relation to our lived experiences and our professional practice as educators.

Not surprisingly then civics and citizenship education—which is generally accepted as the primary purpose the social studies education—has always been a highly contested curricular area. The tapestry of topics, methods, and aims we know as social studies education has always contained threads of social reconstructionism. Social reconstructionists in the USA, such as George S. Counts, Harold Rugg, and later Theodore Brameld argued that teachers should work toward social change by teaching students to practice democratic principles, collective responsibility, and social and economic justice. Dewey advocated the democratic reconstruction of society and aspects of his philosophy inform the work of some aspects of citizenship education. The traditional patterns of social studies teaching, curriculum, and teacher education, however, reflect little of the social reconstructionist vision of the future, and current practices in these areas are more often focused on implementing standardized curriculum and responding to high-stakes tests than developing and working toward a vision of a socially just world. Indeed, the self-described social studies “contrarians” in the USA who advocate the “transmission” of “facts” and reject pluralism in favor of nationalism and monculturalism seem to be have the upper hand in most schools and classrooms, despite spirited resistance.

Undoubtedly, good intentions undergird citizenship education programs in North American. And yet, too often their oppressive possibilities overwhelm and subsume their potential for anti-oppression and anti-oppressive education, especially as states, the national government, and professional education associations continue their drive to standardize, to impose a singular theory and practice of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Social studies educators must pursue, as some already do, an agenda dedicated to the creation of a citizenship education that struggles against and disrupts inequalities and oppression. Classroom practice must work toward a citizenship education committed to exploring and affecting the contingencies of understanding and action and the possibilities of eradicating exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence in both schools and society. Freire, as illustrated in the above quotation, like Dewey, teaches us that citizenship education is essential to democratic education, and that democratic education is essential to a free and democratic society. Students must know that birth, nationality, documents, and platitudes are not enough. They must understand that the promises of citizenship (freedom), the fulfillment of its virtues, are unfinished, and that they remain an ongoing, dynamic struggle. And they must come to act in a variety of creative and ethical ways, for the expansion and realization of freedom and democracy, the root of contemporary notions of citizenship, is in their hands, and it demands of them no less than the ultimate in democratic and anti-oppressive human reflection and human activity.

Contemporary conditions demand an anti-oppressive citizenship education, one that takes seriously social and economic inequalities and oppression that result from neoliberal capitalism and that builds upon the anti-oppressive possibilities of established and officially sanctioned approaches. Some new and potentially exciting directions and alternatives exist, however, within the recent scholarship surrounding Freirean and neo-Freirean pedagogy, democratic education, and cultural studies.

The pedagogical power “dangerous citizenship”, which I explore in the balance of this paper, resides in its capacity to encourage students and educators to challenge the implications of their own education/instruction, to envision an education that is free and democratic to the core, and to interrogate and uncover their own well-intentioned complicity in the conditions within which various cultural texts and practices appear, especially to the extent that oppressive conditions create oppressive cultural practices, and vice versa.

Singer: Don’t know much about—history, geography or civics.

Don’t Know Much About – History, Geography or Civics
By Alan Singer

In April 1943, as the United States prepared to invade Nazi dominated Europe and hopefully rebuild the continent on democratic foundations, the nation was shook, at least mildly, by a study that showed a tremendous “ignorance of U.S. History” by college freshman (Benjamin Fine, “Ignorance of U.S. History Shown By College Freshman,” The New York Times, April 4, 1943, p. 1). A survey of 7,000 incoming students at 36 colleges and universities across the country exposed a “vast fund of misinformation on many basic facts.” Adding to the national concern was that most of these students had studies either American history, government, or social studies while in high school. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the colleges and universities did not require a United States history class to earn an undergraduate degree. For a week, the issue made the front page of the New York Times and was even debated in the United States Senate. Then it quietly faded from public attention, until it reappeared in 1976, 1987, and 2002 when new test scores were released (Alan Singer, “Past as Prologue, History vs. Social Studies,” Social Education, 68 (2), February 2004, pp. 158-160.).

People somehow thought that saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school and singing the National Anthem at baseball games were enough to promote patriotism and respect for democracy, that is until the next Cold War or War on Terror scare.

In recent weeks, ignorance of United States history and the functioning of the U.S. government made the front pages again when a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics exam showed that among other academic weaknesses, “Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights” and “only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches.” Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who heads a group that promotes civics education, declared “Today’s NAEP results confirm that we have a crisis on our hands when it comes to civics education.”

In many ways today’s crisis is of the government’s making, both on the national and state levels. It is also a crisis precipitated by the actions of both political parties, the Bush Republican “No Child Left Behind” and the Obama Democrat “Race to the Top.” Both mis-education strategies stress continuous testing in reading and math at the expense of all other subjects, including history, social studies, and civics. Students, teachers, and schools are all evaluated solely on these tests items. NO CHILD ON TOP / RACE TO THE BEHIND has transformed many of our schools, especially in inner-city communities, into cold, dry, boring test prep academies rather than places were children learn how to learn and prepare to become active citizens in a democratic society.
According to a report by my colleague Andrea Libresco, after five years of No Child Left Behind 36 percent of the nation’s school districts had cut class time for social studies to focus on math and reading test preparation.

In New York State, civics education has been undermined by the virtual abandonment of social studies below the high school level. Standardized state social studies and history assessments have already been canceled for the fifth and eighth grades and may become optional in high school. Unfortunately, as State Educational Commissioner David Steiner conceded at a conference at Hofstra University on April 15, “What is tested is taught.”

These “reforms” will make civics education, history and geography at best haphazard learning in our schools. According to Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, civic education is the most important subject talk in America schools and should have “moral primacy over other purposes of public education in a democratic society.” Brian Dowd, social studies K-12 coordinator in Massapequa, NY and co-chair of the Long Island Council for the Social Studies fears that “the Board of Regents,” by counting social studies again, “is about to put New York in ‘moral danger.'” The council is now conducting a letter writing and email campaign to press the state to keep current assessments and re-institute the ones that were suspended.

In the 1980s, Ry Cooder & The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces had a less-than-hit song called “Down in Mississippi.” It celebrated a state with some of the lowest economic and social indices in the country. My fear is that current national and state educational policies that stress reading and math test prep at the expense of everything else will not only undermine civic understanding, but leave us all “Down in Mississippi.”

Another disturbing thought is that people in power in this country may not want a truly educated population. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, both President Obama and former President Bush called it an act of “justice.” I asked an eleventh grade high school class in Uniondale, New York if they agreed and every student who spoke, and there were many, said “Yes.” I then asked how we define “justice” in the United States. There was general agreement that the key component is due process of law with the right to a trial. My final question was, whether you agreed with the killing of Bin Laden or not, do you think it can correctly be described as “justice”? Students were now not so sure. For me as a social studies teacher, the most important part of civics education is promoting this kind of uncertainty.

Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies, Hofstra University