Rethinking Social Studies and History Education: Social Education through Alternative Texts
reviewed by Nancy Gallavan - June 06, 2017
Title: Rethinking Social Studies and History Education: Social Education through Alternative Texts
Author(s): Cameron White
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1681234971, Pages: 216, Year: 2016
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When invited to review this text, I was intrigued by the title, Rethinking Social Studies and History Education: Social Education through Alternative Texts. Given the ever-changing sociocultural contexts associated with the teaching, learning, and schooling of social studies, I was eager to investigate the authors perspectives on rethinking social studies, social education, and alternative texts. For many years I have been investigating related research and proven practices for promoting both social education and alternative texts in K-12 social studies classrooms, and for integrating social studies across the curriculum; especially in preparation for college, career, community, and civic life. Likewise, I am always seeking insightful and inspirational books to use with teacher candidates and classroom teachers cognizant of their time, money, and interests.
Too often the majority of K-12 students and higher education teacher candidates have experienced challenges in their own social studies education, and bring only partial knowledge of the wealth of possibilities. However, todays students appear ready, willing, and able to apply the concepts and practices of social education to real world understanding. They seem eager to explore new opportunities in order to source information from diverse resources, engaging in various experiences to expand their sometimes-limited classroom activities and foster authentic action and holistic advocacy as both learners and teachers. The title of this book also instilled several professional inquiries. I am a proponent of viewing history as one of the many academic disciplines of social studies, and not as a field of study receiving identical energy as the comprehensive body of social studies. I value civics, economics, and geography along with the other strands of social studies as equal to history with all of them comprising the inclusive foundations of social studies education.
As a researcher dedicated to cultural competence and critical consciousness, I was piqued by the authors nuances of social education. Would social education be presented as a static delivery or a dynamic force? I consider social education as the integration of concepts and practices associated with ensuring democratic principles and social justice for everyone. For me, emphasizing human rights and education equity locally and globally serves as both the impetus and justification for becoming informed, involved, and influential as an individual and a member of various institutions. Therefore, I believe that social education must be purposefully incorporated into, specifically identified, individually connected, and clearly evident in every social studies learning experience. One of my additional inquiries about the material relates to the word alternative. Frequently, this word communicates differences considered to be marginal, unconventional, less important, and so forth. For this text, I believe the use of alternative conveyed the rich range of physical and digital resources available to learners and teachers alike.
Rather than providing an Introduction with an overview of the books structure and rationale, the text opens with Chapter One describing media and popular culture as alternative texts. Fortunately, alternative texts are described as positive and productive choices. This is the longest chapter in the book, and covers many topics; it would, however, have benefitted from more frequent subheadings to better order the sequence as the author moved between topics. Frequently, statements were made that required citations, and some statements indicated more than one author.
Chapters One through Three focus primarily on a general academic overview of media and popular culture (...) in the classroom as both pedagogy and text (p. 3). Chapter Four offers some specific guidelines, stating, media/technology should be integrated to promote [the authors] 5 Cs -- common good, community, collaboration/cooperation, conflict resolution, and context/connections as well as rights and responsibilities as global citizens in the 21st century, regardless of whether one is exploring history, government, culture, geography, or economics (p. 39). The author identifies a sampling of sites, although few descriptions of their classroom applications are included. Chapters Five through Twenty-Five present discussions related to teaching social studies through technologies associated with assorted topics, including sports, elections, Asia, Hollywood, music, Hispanics, movies, museums, and the prairie, while Chapters Sixteen through Eighteen highlight issues relevant to the state of Texas. Some of the 25 chapters highlight technologies to integrate topics and issues pertinent to citizenship, globalization, peace and war, and participatory politics. Though they are limited in concepts and resources, the chapters Linking Present and Past through Culturally Responsible Teaching and Rethinking History Texts offer initial ideas for social studies education to become learner centered, authentically engaging, and culturally competent.
This book would have benefitted greatly from an introductory chapter orienting the range of readers to the various purposes of the book, along with a rationale to motivate readers to proceed. Consolidating the research related to the past and present practices in social studies education, social education, and alternative texts into the introduction would have presented a foundation for the reader to begin understanding and applying the topics and issues aligned with the books title. Similarly, attention to the order of chapters and the narrative flow from chapter to chapter would have reinforced the purposes and practices established in the introduction.
Overall, this book would have profited from greater attention paid to the organization and discussions of the concepts, pedagogies, and resources within each chapter. Some chapters begin with quotes; some chapters begin with questions. Other chapters begin with published research; other chapters begin with author commentary. Each chapter could have opened with a list of concepts and pedagogies included in the chapter, followed by a recurring pattern of related topics, and then closed with both the list of resources and some review questions for readers to reflect on their learning and connect to their practices. The text could have also better clarified the concepts through detailed examples of the pedagogies, as well as more thorough descriptions of the resources. The research and resources interwoven throughout the book could also have been more current. Teacher educators and staff developers must select their texts wisely in the preparation of teacher candidates as well as professional development for classroom social studies teachers. While this text might be useful, other texts offer more specific guidance and support for promoting social education in todays social studies classrooms.