Robert A. Waterson’s work on social studies and how it relates to democratic values was recently published in The Status of Social Studies, a text that combines data from 35 states in order to get an accurate picture of the current state of social studies education in the United States.
Waterson, a professor at the College of Education and Human Services at West Virginia University, is also the founder and director of the WVU Center for Democracy and Citizenship Education. He co-authored the chapter, Social Studies and Democratic Values, with University of North Dakota professor Donna K. Pearson.
Waterson saw the national study as a way to enter West Virginia – one of the states that participated – data into the system. Together, he and Pearson reviewed data to understand what kind of emphasis teachers place on democratic values in their curricula. In addition to finding that democratic values are at the core of what students are being taught, their findings showed that social history is being emphasized in the classroom and that children generally begin learning about democratic values in elementary school.
“This study provides the opportunity to better understand the importance of what is taught in social studies classrooms across the nation,” said Pearson. “It cannot be overstated how significant it is to connect student interest to relevant social studies themes.
“Of greater note, the teaching of social studies must remain a cornerstone of our educational efforts if we are to provide the next generation with the necessary knowledge, skills and dispositions required to sustain our democratic values.”
The study took two years to complete and was subject to intensive peer review from an internal review board. It is the largest study of social studies teachers in more than three decades.
CONTACT: Christie Zachary, College of Education and Human Services
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