Opinion: Resources to improve social studies in our schools? We have them now

By WILLIAM H. DUNLAP and ELIZABETH DUBRULLE

Published: 07-20-2023 6:00 AM

William H. Dunlap is president of the New Hampshire Historical Society. Elizabeth Dubrulle is the Director of Education for the New Hampshire Historical Society.

We applaud the recent passage of legislation mandating the expanded teaching of civics and history in New Hampshire’s schools. It is widely recognized we have a crisis in this subject area.

The passage of this bill (SB 216) by the legislature, as well as the creation of a new commission on civics, are good steps toward addressing the challenge. The critical question now is, what comes next?

For the many who for years have been sounding the alarm on the crisis in civics and history education, this legislation is a welcome development. We now have passed a law that starts to address the crux of the problem: the lack of time devoted to teaching social studies, especially in the younger grades, kindergarten through 8th grade.

Laying a solid foundation of knowledge in the early years is essential for success in the subsequent high school years.

How will the newly available classroom time be used? What lessons will be imparted? How can we steer away from divisive, unproductive political arguments and toward meaningful educational progress? Most importantly, how will classroom educators find the resources to meet the requirements of the new law?

The good news is that high-quality curricular resources for grades K-8 have already been developed and are available right now to every school in the state. Many schools are already in the process of adopting them.

Earlier this year, the New Hampshire Historical Society completed the multiyear development of a statewide curriculum called “Moose on the Loose: Social Studies for Granite State Kids” (moose.nhhistory.org). Provided at no cost and available to everyone through an open access website, the “Moose” is unlike any other resource offered for children in elementary and middle schools.

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A balanced curriculum from a trusted source, it helps students create an intellectual framework for history and civics that will give them a better understanding of the world around them and provide them with an on-ramp for lifelong civic participation.

One of the Moose’s greatest strengths is that it cultivates foundational knowledge, the ideas on which our nation and state were founded; the development of rights and responsibilities over the course of our history; the people, events, and movements that have shaped us; and, perhaps most importantly, the way all of these things fit together in a self-governing republic.

It is by focusing on foundational knowledge that we can effect systemic change that benefits every child in the state.

As educators, government officials, and stakeholders embark on this effort to renew civics and history education, we urge them to use this opportunity wisely, to learn what is truly needed to bring about the kind of change we need, to explore the work that has already been done in this field, and to employ public resources in the areas where they will be most effective. “Moose on the Loose” is an important part of the solution to the civics crisis.

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