April 1, 2019

Nature of Social Studies

Let me share this article I wrote and prepared as a graduate school requirement submitted last February 24, 2019.

Respondents’ answers to my interviews:

For me, compared to other subjects, the study of Social Studies is vital and will always be essential to the lives of people from as basic as their family lives and even beyond their communities and societies. First of all, as a person, we are a part of a larger state, which in fact, we are the most important component of it, that is why we need to be aware of what's happening from the smallest issues to the biggest news of our nation. Even at home, you will see the importance of Social Studies. You wake up in the morning, you will feel hunger, if you don't find anything to eat, that's when you realize that you need to work in order to survive, that's Economics. Secondly, once you leave your community, you'll find social studies' importance through the laws that you should abide to because you can't just say sorry for such actions, take note, ignorance of the law excuses no one. That's a big reason why we have to be updated with the law.

Moreover, it is only through the social studies subject that you can relate and talk about the issues that are happening to our current society. You can be called a math genius but at the same time, be called socially ignorant because knowing basic math will make you survive but being ignorant to what is happening with your environment is a different thing. As per Aristotle, "Man by Nature is a Political Animal", it is our nature as human beings to be opinionated when it comes to issues that touches us personally. The price of goods, poverty, hunger- these are very important social aspects that are crucial to our existence that is why it is very important to learn "Araling Panlipunan". For some, a subject that is hard to understand and a sharp memory is needed but for me, it is plain and simple, whatever it is that you wish to know, that is that we are part of a state and a part of a society.
- Arnel Japson (Araling Pnalipunan Teacher, Unida Nehemiah Christian Academy- Cavite)

As an English language teacher, what I know about Social Studies is only limited. Apart from knowing it as an integrated study of multiple fields of social science, I think what makes Social Studies a great body of knowledge to study by the learners is its rigorous and comprehensive content of various studies about human society and social relations. I think this subject, if applied in public schools, has to be well-inculcated to students in order to raise awareness how the present society affects an individual today.
-Lyanne Patricia Santiago (Former English Teacher, Unida Nehemiah Christian Academy- Cavite)

Social studies is a group of interdisciplinary fields that teaches students how to be an active and well-informed citizen of the society. As a subject area, it enhances the student's capability to examine how certain phenomena/situation can contribute to the society's development and at the same time, think of productive ways on how to respond and address a variety of societal problems. Thus, transforming them into proactive and vigilant citizens of our country.
-Madilyn Rostata-Decierdo (Araling Panlipunan Teacher, Laguindingan National High School - Misamis Oriental)

After reading the resources provided (Thornton, 2005) and (Saxe, 1991), and through the responses that I was able to gather, my understanding of Social Studies has been much propagated. Social Studies for me is both an aggregation and an integration of several subject matters that are not restricted to the social sciences such as history, geography, and economics to name a few, but also extends to how real-life problems that individuals face on everyday lives can be tackled through a set of skills that can be developed through this study. Though a good foundation on the social sciences can be much effective in understanding modern life, for Social Studies to be effective, it should relate these sciences as to how these future citizens take on such situations that require their critical thinking and confidence as a vital part of society. As per Mr. Japson's answer to the interview, we are all social beings and as a part of this state and society, we should be responsible in learning our duties and rights as citizens because we can only be as effective as much as we learn how to be effective and active.

The role of Social Studies in the Education System is to promote a holistic well-being of the future individual. Training the minds of the child in Mathematics, Language, and Sciences are vital but as much as it is, we need to survive socially. Through interaction, we learn a lot of things, but how these interactions be explained to a student with regards to culture, norms, and even morals is what social studies are for. Beyond the knowledge that we get through drills and memorization, social studies go beyond survival as to "what people need in order to prosper in everyday life" (Thornton, 2005) The study of the past and the abstract concepts of spending, territories, citizenship, makes us more aware not just of the things that already happened to society but makes us understand why the things today are happening.

The question is, does Social Studies present these aims effectively? As simple as the goal sounds, it is very difficult to deliver the subject since there are several factors presented by Thornton which I definitely agree on. These are the aims, subject matter, and student interest. For the aims to be achieved, the choice of subject matter must be carefully planned as to not just leaning towards the 'knowledge' of the social sciences, nor to the practical study of everyday lives. I believe that it should be a fair-play of both. A strong fortitude in the social sciences which will then be a strong shield to tackle present-time situations, and an understanding of the real-world so as to give the learners a reason to study and memorize and explore. And to achieve these aims through a well-balanced curriculum, student interest must be at the forefront because motivated learners are a key as to the success of learning. But can we ensure that learners will be intrinsically motivated just by a set of interesting curriculum activities? That we cannot say, for each individual has its own set of interests and we can only hope to measure them prior to designing the curriculum.

To sum it all up, the importance of Social Studies goes way beyond just acquiring knowledge. As to what Lyanne and Madilyn has stated, it is inter-disciplinary and an integrated study which explains how wide its scope can be. Though in our Philippine Educational system, Social Studies or through our own version of Araling Panlipunan is catered to students for every year level, a systematic design not just of a year's worth of lesson is needed, but a structural design for the whole basic education is needed. During my years as an Elementary and High School students, I have experienced the use of different textbooks from different publishers almost every year. Though DepEd gives out standards to subject matter, the activities and extracurricular design of the study varies on every material, which makes it hard for students to see how systematic the subject can be or as to how continuity can be implored as a learned trudge the Social Studies experience year after year. All of these factors and more becomes a burden to the teachers. A burden which can be viewed as a massive opportunity through a structured curricular design, well planned selection of subject matter (and materials of course) and an effective execution of learning objectives inside the classroom and beyond.

Thornton, S.(2005). Teaching social studies that matter: Curriculum for active teaching, New York: Teachers' College Press. pp 10-44

Saxe, D.W.(1991). Social science, social education and social studies: Descriptions, definitions, and origins. In Social studies in schools: A history of the early years. SUNY Press. Available at http://www.sunypress.edu/pdf/52303.pdf