The term “social studies” usually designates the introductory and intermediate level of social science education at the elementary and secondary school levels. However, it also encompasses a good amount of specialized knowledge drawn from fields of study that are usually found in post-secondary instruction, such as economics, political science, sociology and anthropology. The goals of a social studies education are to instill students with an intimate knowledge of their history, cultural values and civic responsibilities. Social Competency and Literacy
One of the most basic goals of a social studies education is to promote social competency and literacy. It is important that students living in advanced industrial societies understand how those societies function. Students should be highly literate, because their ability to maneuver through society often depends upon it. The social sciences often require a large amount of reading and writing in their curriculum, the content of which is usually designed to give students an idea of how their society is structured. These two goals provide students with a certain amount of social mobility.
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Another goal of social science education is to introduce students to the values of their own native society. In the U.S., this means students are taught democratic principles, our particular style of government and the history behind both. While students are often urged to commit to these principles, ideally they are introduced in such a way that they do not have to personally adopt them, but merely understand them to effectively function within their society. Critical Thinking and Analysis
Critical thinking and analytical skills are fostered as tools for understanding and evaluating the values and institutions that make up the students’ society. These skills also are developed as valuable assets in their own right, because they are easily transferable to other areas of study and have private and professional applications in the real world. Comparative Society
Another important objective in social science education is to instill in students an understanding and tolerance of the social values, norms and practices of other cultures and foreign societies. This is usually achieved through the study of world history. Students should be able to understand that the majority of social norms and cultural differences are relative, and they should learn to treat such differences with tolerance and respect. Civic Efficacy
Perhaps the most important goal of a social studies education is to help students develop a sense of their roles and responsibilities as citizens. Students are taught the importance of making well-informed decisions and how to work within the channels of civic action available to them. In the U.S., for example, this means teaching students the gravity of the democratic process and urging them to take part by exercising their constitutional rights, voting and expressing dissent.