Tag Archives: social studies education

Remarks for Book Symposium on Schooling Corporate Citizens

Ron Evans has written an impressive series of books that critically examine school reform in the United States, with a specific emphasis on the impact of those reforms on social studies, civics, and democratic education. 

In January 2015, I had an opportunity to interview Ron about his latest book Schooling for Corporate Citizens and this month, in Washington, DC, the College and University Faculty Assembly of National Council for the Social Studies sponsored a symposium on the book, below is the text of my remarks at the symposium.

Remarks for Book Symposium on Schooling Corporate Citizens (Ronald W. Evans)

College and University Faculty Assembly of National Council for the Social Studies
Washington, DC
December 1, 2016

E. Wayne Ross
University of British Columbia

Why are things the way they are?
In Schooling Corporate Citizens, Ron Evans has written a compelling history of how bureaucratic, outcomes-based accountability reforms have “damaged” civic education and undermined democracy. Evans notes that social studies education is haunted by two ghosts, the first neoliberal capitalism and neo-conservative cultural warriors and secondly the progressive politics, philosophy, and pedagogy of 20th Century icons such as John Dewey and Harold Rugg.

Evans argues the dilemmas that define social studies at the moment are found (1) in classroom practice (drill and kill/content coverage, driven by testing versus inquiry- or social issues-oriented teaching); and (2) in curriculum politics, which encompasses the social studies wars, but more broadly has elevated a capitalist social efficiency conception of teaching and learning to hegemonic status in combination with an essentialist philosophy of education that focuses on content at the expense of pedagogy.

I agree with Evan’s analysis, but as Chris Hedges recently wrote about the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, “it’s worse than you think.” Evan’s book is an indispensable history of what has happened to social studies and civic education from the inside-out, but stepping away from the history of education reform and considering a much broader, messier, but real life question about relationship between what is taught in social studies and the political, social, economic, and cultural circumstances of the US (and the world) today, then it’s clear that in terms of social studies and civic education things are obviously much worse than the already dismal state of social studies as described in Schooling Corporate Citizens.

Perhaps it’s a professionally narcissistic question that implies too much import to what we do as social studies educators, but when he majority of people either actively or passively support destructive systems of power—white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy—we should be asking: What hath social studies wrought?

Mass ignorance. In explaining how it is that the Republican Party now rules a nation that hates it, Paul Street points to the “supreme ignorance that the nation’s dominant ideological and cultural authorities and institutions have bred in much of the U.S. populace.” The “double-whammy” of “infantilizing and unreal media” and the education students receive in capital’s schools that creates “millions of dumb-downed people” who know little to nothing about relevant issues of the day, like climate change or the nature and history of fascism. Hedges describes of the current cultural moment as celebrating ignorance—political discourse, news, culture and intellectual inquiry replaced by celebrity worship and spectacle. And social studies and civic education is far from blameless for this sorry state of affairs.

The distortion of democracy, or how democracy is taught in schools versus the really existing form of governance in so-called democracies. As research by Gilens and Page demonstrates the United States not a functioning democracy, rather it is a plutocracy. As social studies educators we need to stop teaching a mythic democracy and start teaching the real everyday political realities. Gilens and Page provide the empirical evidence that illustrates average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence on what their government does.

In our illiberal democracy (or what has been called inverted totalitarianism) the people, the electorate, are prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state. Our governing system has elections, yes, but citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power as a result of lack of civil liberties and a massive publications/propaganda machine that includes highly concentrated media corporations that project the illusion of a free press.

Authentic political participation can be found – look at movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock – but the version of democracy long taught in most social studies classes is a victim of political cleansing. As Sheldon Wolin argues, US electoral democracy is now a “political form in which governments are legitimated by elections they have learned to control.”

As Huxley wrote in Brave New World, the old forms remain – elections, supreme courts, parliaments and all the rest, but the underlying substance is a new kind of totalitarianism.

All the traditional names, all the hollowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.

Corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy – capitalism trumps politics – every natural resource and every living being is commodified and exploited to death as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their civil liberties and their participation in government is reduced to excessive consumerism and sensationalism.

There are two main totalizing dynamics in the US, according to Wolin, (1) the war on terror; and (2) neoliberal, free-market, economics, which subjects the population to economic rationationalization (e.g., downsizing, outsourcing, dismantling of the welfare state) destroying the commons and creating a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that makes it even less likely people will engage politically, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of illiberal democracy. All the while social studies continues to teach faith in the system, nostalgically looking back to the past, unthinkingly maintaining a corrupt system while stuck in the mire of the unholy apocalypse that is now.

Disconnection between what the people want and reality of everyday life. As Street argues in his book They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy, Washington runs on corporate and financial cash, connections, reach, and propaganda, not public opinion. The “unelected dictatorship of money” is not interested in crafting policy that responds to public opinion polls that show:

  • Two-thirds (66%) of Americans think that the distribution of money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among more people in the U.S.
  • 61% of Americans believe that in today’s economy it is mainly just a few people at the top who have a chance to get ahead.
  • 83% of Americans think the gap between the rich and the poor is a problem.
  • 67% of Americans think the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be addressed immediately, not as some point in the future.
  • 57% of Americans think the U.S. government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S.
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents say that large corporations have too much influence in the county, about the double the amount that said the same of unions.
  • 68% of Americans favor raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million per year.
  • 50% of Americans support limits on money earned by top executives at large corporations. (Street, 2015)

The disconnect between public opinion and reality of government’s (non) responses to inequality and injustice and its attacks on civil rights, is a direct challenge to our work as social studies educators. We can no longer rely on the old tropes of democracy and freedom that have dominated the curriculum and classroom discourse; to do so to sell students a lies about history and contemporary life.

Obedience. Why are things as they are? Part of the answer, a big part of the answer is consent, we’ve let things become this way. We need to learn, practice, and teach disobedience, in the name of social justice, in the name of trying to achieve the visions of democracy that are so often glibly taught in social studies classrooms.
In an open letter posted on Susan Ohanian’s website by Omaha lawyer, Rob Bligh writes:

I think that I understand the political malice that guides the Republicans. I think that I understand the political correctness that guides the Democrats. I think that I understand the arrogant ignorance that guides the Gates crowd.

What I do not understand is the deafening silence of nearly all … teacher-training faculty employed by America’s colleges and universities. They are allowing their graduates to be roasted slowly over a flame of lies and they are doing nothing about it. Perhaps the professors think that they will escape to early retirement before Gates and the politicians come for them. Some profession!

Ohanian herself writes, in an article that amounts to a call to arms for critical educators titled “Against Obedience,”

When teachers stoically keep their silence while corporate politicos shovel shit on them, they really can’t expect that tomorrow they’ll get roses. Or even less shit. I’m thinking of getting cards printed so I can distribute this message: You deserve what you accept. We can see the stages of teacher reaction to Common Core Standards: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression … But please, please, we need to skip ‘Acceptance’ and move to resistance. Real resistance, not just Twitter/Facebook/blog complaint.

Whining is not the same thing as doing something. Whining is whining. Action is something else. …. Not to resist is to become what you do. …. There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolution or you stand against the needs of children, and you aid the destruction of your own profession, not to mention democracy.

We MUST build a mass movement. Revolution is the only answer.

Believing in and teaching faith in the system is a fool’s errand for anyone claims to claims to be working for democracy, justice, and equality given present circumstances – a world plagued by climate change, species extinction, imperial war, and systematic violence against women, people of color, and the poor, and the rise of 21st Century fascism. If as social studies educators we are serious about working for democracy, then our work requires practicing and teaching disobedience and resistance, which would be an about-face for the field. The old tropes of democracy have failed us as social studies educators and have failed the public. Here’s a workout plan for anyone who’s ready to challenge totalitarianism:

Start with a warm up: protests, strikes, and public events. Push your boundaries and find out what your skills are. Then comes the cardio: organizing, the long distance running of the movement. Weight training is composed of civil disobedience and low-level hit-and-run techniques, gaining experience with each strike. Finally comes the competition itself: the revolutionary confrontations, sabotage, undermining, hacking, and other actions necessary for dismantling empire. (Max Wilbert, Counterpunch, 2016)

No magical thinking. Warming our own and our students’ hearts with myths of democracy is a dangerous practice. In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, Chris Hedges warned that societies in terminal decline often retreat into magical thinking. The reality is just too much to bear so people are susceptible to “fantastic and impossible promises of a demagogue or charlatan who promises the return of a lost golden age.”

These promises, impossible to achieve, are no different from those peddled to Native Americans in the 1880s by the self-styled religious prophet Wovoka [aka Jack Wilson]. He called on followers to carry out five-day dance ceremonies called the Ghost Dance. Native Americans donned shirts they were told protected them from bullets. They were assured that the buffalo herds would return, the dead warriors and chiefs would rise from the earth and the white men would disappear. None of his promises was realized. Many of his followers were gunned down like sheep by the U.S. army.

We need a revolution in our thinking and the courage to act in politically and pedagogically in revolutionary ways to build mass democratic movements to combat totalitarianism. We must not allow social studies to become a ghost dance of democracy … or perhaps we already have.

Upcoming Institute for Critical Education Studies seminars

The Institute for Critical Education Studies is please to sponsor two upcoming seminars on curriculum issues in Latin America and Spain.

Curricular Discourses with Practical Implications:
Perspectives and Experiences From Spain & South America
September 22, 2016
11:30am – 1:30pm
Scarfe 310
University of British Columbia

This seminar brings together scholars from Spain and South America working within a variety of curriculum studies traditions to discuss curriculum issues in contexts ranging from elementary education to higher education. The seminar will be an opportunity to explore how curricular discourses have implications in educational practices in local, national, and global contexts.

Panelists include Dr. Renato Gazmuri (Universidad Diego Portales, Chile); Sandra Delgado (Colombia), Fernando M. Murillo (Chile), Breo Tosar (Spain), and Héctor Gómez (Chile).

Curricular Ideologies in the Discussion and Negotiation of the Chilean Social Studies Curriculum
Monday, September 26, 2016
Noon – 1:oopm
Scarfe 1209
University of British Columbia

Renato Gazmuri, PhD, Assistant Professor at Universidad Diego Portales (Chile). 

Dr. Gazmuri will discuss his research on the construction of the social studies curriculum in Chile. The Chilean social studies curriculum has been defined through processes of discussion and negotiation between diverse actors and institutions with different views on the subject. In order to identify and describe these ideologies, a sequential and recursive methodological device was designed and applied in three stages of production and analysis of information: a documentary compilation around three curricular events of debate and negotiation, application of questionnaires, and interviews. At each stage a content analysis was performed. Five curriculum ideologies are identified and described, considering their assumptions about how the curriculum should define the subject matter, as well what its aims, contents and its guidelines for teaching.

These seminars are free and open to the public.

The Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES) was formally established in October 2010 to conduct and support cultural, educational, or social research within a critical education or critical pedagogy tradition. The ICES network consists of two flagship journals (Critical Education and Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor), two primary blogs (ICES blog and Workplace blog) and an array of other social media.

Be Realistic Demand the Impossible: A Rejoinder to Peter Seixas [updated with video]

“Be Realistic Demand the Impossible”[1]

Rejoinder to Peter Siexas’s
Dangerous indeed: A response to E. Wayne Ross’ ‘Courage of hopelessness’

University of British Columbia
Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy
Seminar Series: Diverse Perspectives on Curriculum & Pedagogy

February 26, 2016

1. The “courage of hopelessness” is, perhaps ironically, an optimistic position.

The publicity blurbs for Peter’s talk stated that he would offer “a way to steer a course between the two closely related traps of hopelessness and utopianism.” This is a misreading of my use of the term “courage of hopelessness,” which is a position of some great optimism.

[Read the text of my January 15, 2016 seminar “The Courage of Hopelessness: Democratic Education in the Age of Empire.” Watch video my talk here. Watch Seixas talk, my response and Q&A with audience below.]

2. Utopia – “Be realistic demand the impossible”

We need Utopia / utopian thought more than ever because we live in a time without alternatives when neoliberal capitalism reins triumphant and uncontested.

[This circumstance is captured in Margaret Thatcher’s declarations: “There is no alternative” and “there is no such thing as society.” The latter of which was embodied in Stephen Harper’s refusal to “commit sociology,” which was an ideological attempt to prevent the identification of and responses to structural injustices that result from capitalism.]

The so-called global free market works well for the One Percent, but not for rest of humanity. In my talk, I provided some examples of the ways in which capitalism trumps democracy (pun intended).

The hegemonic system of global capitalism dominates not because people agree with it; it rules because most people are convinced “There Is No Alternative.” Indeed, as I have argued, the dominant approach to schooling and curriculum, particularly in social studies education, is aimed at indoctrinating students into this belief.

Utopian thinking allows us to consider alternatives, such as the pedagogical imaginaries which I presented in my January seminar, in attempt to open up spaces for rethinking our approaches to learning, teaching, and experiencing the world. And these imaginaries are necessary because traditional tropes of social studies curriculum (e.g., democracy, voting, democratic citizenship) are essentially lies we tell to ourselves and our students (because democracy is incompatible with capitalism; capitalist democracy creates a shallow, spectator version of democracy at best; democracy as it operates now is inseparable from empire/perpetual war and vast social inequalities).

Stephen Duncombe argues that Utopia is politically necessary even for people who do not desire an alternative society,

“Thoughtful politics depend upon debate and without someone or something to disagree with there is no meaningful dialogue, only an echo chamber…Without a vision of an alternative future, we can only look backwards nostalgically to the past, or unthinkingly maintain what we have, mired in the unholy apocalypse that is now.”

3. The Nature of Method or Inquiry

I believe the key question to be posed in social studies and one that history can help us answer is “why are things as are they are?”

[Marx’s method, dialectics, is a tool that does not necessarily require a Marxist politics or practice (class struggle), see for example the dialectical approaches of individualist libertarians Chris Sciabarra and John F. Welsh.]

What we understand about the world is determined by what the world is, who we are, and how we conduct our inquiries.

Things change. Everything in the world is changing and interacting. When studying social issues we should begin by challenging the commonsense ideas of society or particular social issues as a “thing” and consider the processes and relationships that make up what we think of as society or a social issue, which includes its history and possible futures.

Inquiries into social issues help us understand how things change and also contribute to change.

In understanding social issues and how things change it helps to “abstract” or start with “concrete reality” and break it down. Abstraction is like using camera lenses with different focal lengths: a zoom lens to bring a distant object into focus (what is the history of this?) or using a wide-angle lens to capture more of a scene (what is the social context of the issue now?)

This approach raises important questions: where does one start and what does one look for? The traditional approach to inquiry starts with small parts and attempts to establish connections with other parts leading to an understanding of the larger whole. Beginning with the whole, the system, or as much as we understand of it, and then inquiring into the part or parts of it to see how it fits and functions leads to a fuller understanding of the whole.

Analysis of present conditions is necessary, but insufficient. The problem is that reality is more than appearances and focusing on appearances, the face value of evidence from our immediate surroundings, can be misleading.

How do we think adequately about social issues, giving issues the attention and weight they deserve, without the distorting them? We can expand our notion of a social issue (or anything for that matter) to include, as aspects of what it is, both the process by which the issue has come to life and the broader interactive context in which it is found. In this way, the study of a social issue involves us in the study of its history (the preconditions and connections to the past) and the encompassing system.

Remembering, “things change,” provokes us to move beyond analyzing current conditions and historicizing social issues, to project probable or possible futures. In other words, our inquiry leads to the creation of visions of possible futures.

This process of inquiry, then, changes the way we think about a social issue in the here and now (change moves in spirals, not circles) in that we can now look for preconditions of a future in the present and use them to develop political strategies (i.e., organize for change).

4. The School and “Social Progress”

The fundamental parts of human nature include a need for creative work, for creative inquiry, for free creation without the arbitrary limiting effects of coercive institutions.

Schools are continually threatened because they are autocratic and they are autocratic because they are threatened—from within by students and critical parents and from without by various and disparate social, political, and economic interests. These conditions divide teachers from students and community and shape teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, and action.

Teachers then, are crucial to any effort to improve, reform, or revolutionize curriculum, instruction, or schools. The transformation of schools must begin with the teachers, and no program that does not include the personal and collective rehabilitation of teachers can ever overcome the passive resistance of the old order.

Schools should places that enable people to analyze and understand social problems; envision a future without those problems; and take action to bring that vision in to existence.

Social progress is enhanced when we rewrite the narrative of the triumphant individual working within the system into a story of the creation of self-critical communities of educators in schools (and people in society) working collaboratively toward transformative outcomes.

People who talk about transformational learning or educational revolution without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about learning, and love, and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, are trapped in a net of received ideas, the common-nonsense and false reality of technocrats (or worse).

Schools are alluring contradictions, harboring possibilities for liberation, emancipation, and social progress, but, as fundamentally authoritarian and hierarchical institutions, they produce myriad oppressive and inequitable by-products. The challenge, perhaps impossibility, is discovering ways in which schools can contribute to positive liberty.

That is a society where individuals have the power and resources to realize and fulfill their own potential, free from the obstacles of classism, racism, sexism and other inequalities encouraged by educational systems and the influence of the state and religious ideologies. A society where people have the agency and capacity, to make their own free choices and act independently based on reason, not authority, tradition, or dogma.

[1] These remarks were presented immediately following Seixas’ presentation and prepared without the opportunity to read the text of his talk in advance. As a result, they are based upon the abstract circulated prior to his seminar and my understanding of Seixas’ perspective based upon his published work and our interactions as faculty members at UBC.

Video of Seixas presentation, Ross response and Q&A with audience (February 26, 2016):

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