Researchers examine historical social studies curriculum’s treatment of race
The year: 1865. The Civil War had come to a close, laws banning literacy were abolished and the newly-freed slaves could legally be educated.
But how did social studies texts from the 1860s treat African-Americans and the contributions they made to U.S. history?
Associate Professor Chara Bohan worked with Temple University’s Christine Woyshner on “Histories of Social Studies and Race: 1865-2000,” a 10-chapter book filled with research on how social studies curriculum addressed race, from the mid-19th century to the present day.
“It’s very fascinating to think about how kids long ago really dealt with issues of different ethnic groups,” Bohan said. “We think that this is a new issue, but it’s not. When you look back in history, you realize some of these same issues were dealt with in the Progressive Era, in the 1920s and even now.”
Bohan and Woyshner’s book takes what Bohan calls a “ground-up” approach to social studies curriculum – asking researchers contributing to the book to write about what teachers and schools were teaching at the local, grassroots level, rather than solely focusing on national movements.
The resulting book offers perspectives from researchers across the country, who examine everything from culturally-relevant teaching in the Reconstruction Era to the 15-year fight to desegregate Atlanta Public Schools.
Each chapter brings to light the nuances of social studies education from specific eras in American history and the implications these nuances can have on teaching not just social studies, but all subject areas.
“I hope readers understand how race has impacted the curriculum in subtle and some not-so-subtle ways over the past century and a half,” she said. “I hope the book gives readers a new lens with which to view the curriculum – social studies curriculum in particular, but even the larger curriculum.”