Preserve Our Social Studies Education


Civil Beat’s Articles on the change to the current recommendation Sept. 2011


Katherine Poythress. “U.S. History, World History Omitted From Proposed Hawaii Grad Requirements,”         

            Honolulu Civil Beat, 9/16/2011

-----.  “Hawaii Ed Department Drops Plan to Cut Social Studies Requirements,” 9/15/2011.

-----.Board Unfazed by Ed Department's Reversal on Grad Requirements,” Honolulu Civil Beat, 9/14/2011.

-----. “Vote on New Hawaii Grad Requirements Postponed,” Honolulu Civil Beat, August 16, 2011.

Lyla Berg. “Deconstructing Education in a Time of Global CrisisHonolulu Civil Beat Sept. 15, 2011.

Mary Vorsino, “DOE speeds diploma changes,” The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Sept.15, 2011.


The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools is a coalition of over 40 partner organizations working to improve civic education in America's schools. Check out the new Civic Mission of Schools Report here.

The BOE’s meeting calendar is at:

Department of Education website:

For information on Hawai’i Social Studies Education Achievements:

    Hawai’i Council for the Humanities Newsletter:

NCEE Study on the importance of Social Studies Education: “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform:”


Honolulu Civil Beat article “UH Chimes in on Hawaii Social Studies Debate” by Katherine Poythress:

Aloha POSSE forms to defend Hawaii social studies curriculum (includes position paper)” by Larry Geller, Disappeared News: News you may not find in the local media. Learn why it was disappeared.    July 31, 2011


Civil Beat’s Articles on the Appointed Board of Education


Pace, Judith L. Commentary        Why We Need to Save (and Strengthen) Social Studies

        (As first appeared in Education Week, December 19, 2007. Reprinted with permission from the author.)

Amid the chorus of much-needed criticisms of the No Child Left Behind Act, hardly a note has been heard in the media about the “squeezing” of social studies, a significant consequence of the pressure to raise test scores in reading and mathematics. Only a tiny body of published research on the problem exists, but it, along with widespread anecdotal evidence, indicates that high-stakes accountability based on reading and math scores is marginalizing the social studies curriculum in elementary schools.

Surveys have reported reduced instructional time in various states, and organizations such as the National Council for the Social Studies have responded with letters and statements to Congress. Social studies educators have begun to lobby their lawmakers. But the apparent mainstream acceptance of drastic reductions in the amount of time and attention given to one of elementary education’s core academic subjects is shocking. We are in danger of losing a generation of citizens schooled in the foundations of democracy—and of producing high school graduates who are not broadly educated human beings.

In my own state of California, where history/social studies is not tested until 8th grade, this trend began with the state’s Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999, and has accelerated with the No Child Left Behind law. The social studies squeeze occurs disproportionately in low-performing schools with large minority and low-income populations that are under intense pressure to raise scores. And this, too, has alarming implications for educational opportunity and civic participation.

In one of the few qualitative research studies on this topic, the University of California, Riverside, researcher John S. Wills examined the dilemmas faced by teachers in a poor, rural school in California when social studies instruction was curtailed by high-stakes-testing demands in other subjects. He found that teachers managed these dilemmas differently, but with a common consequence: Elements of thoughtful teaching were eradicated. Wills asks whether the drive for accountability is leading not only to lost content knowledge, but also, and paradoxically, to the elimination of thoughtful, student-centered instruction “disproportionately from the education of poor students and students of color.”

Anecdotal evidence is disturbing, and cries out for more systematic investigation. Some large school districts in California and other states have now virtually eliminated social studies instruction from all of their elementary schools, and some middle schools. Many students are not getting social studies instruction until the 10th grade. Teacher-educators, including myself and colleagues at other institutions, have discovered that elementary school preservice candidates are not having an opportunity to observe or practice social studies teaching. Especially in schools where teachers are required to spend more hours on reading and math, often using scripted programs, little time is left for social studies. With the advent in California of science testing in the 5th grade, this subject, too, will trump social studies.

This past spring, I interviewed 5th grade teachers in three Northern California districts about the teaching of social studies for a small pilot study. My sample was skewed, because many teachers in low-performing schools declined the invitation to talk and I purposely recruited teachers who love history. Still, the interviews were revealing, and may hold some significance for other school systems nationwide.

In the suburban, high-performing district I studied, teachers reported that history is a centerpiece of the curriculum. Although this district≠s report card de-emphasizes history-social science, its teachers are free to give the subject area priority in their classrooms.