Hi world, I’m Marc Aronson, I write the Consider the Source column for SLJ. As an author and editor of books for younger readers, I thought I knew something about nonfiction and the schools. But I was wrong. There truly is a crisis around social studies in elementary schools. It is, as the cliche goes, a perfect storm. As a rule, teachers in the lower grades are not well prepared in social studies content. Schools, with NCLB on the brain, are putting their energy into English and math skills.Then, as Dr. Myra Zarnowski, chair of the Elementary and Early Childhood Education department at Queens College, explained it to me, kids reach fourth grade. Having had a steady diet of stories and worksheets, they are now hit with textbooks. The kids are bored, the teachers are poorly prepared, the schools are concerned with impending test scores. Worst of all, no one is quite sure what social studies should be, what function it serves at all.
So the one place every young person in America meets nonfiction — in school — is the one place where social studies is the neglected, abused stepchild. That is the definition of a crisis. At least if, like me, you love history.
Have I gotten this right? Let me know.