Why spend all that money on textbooks that are outdated in no time?

The State of Minnesota last week approved new social studies standards to be met by students in schools across the state. The timing is particularly interesting because, here in Crookston, the committee that’s tasked with staying on top of curriculum needs in the core subjects currently is tackling that very core subject, social studies.

    No matter what the state standards are, this is an opportunity for local educators in the public schools to take the leap and not go the standard route of buying another stack of textbooks with a price tag into the six figures. Social studies is the perfect subject in which to take such a leap.

    Shirley Simonson, who teaches junior high social studies at Crookston High School, is one of the “community profiles” featured in our 2013 Community Connections special edition, which publishes on Friday, April 26. In her profile, she’s asked by the Times for her thoughts on the future of social studies teaching, and the possibility of ditching the traditional textbook-based instructional model in favor of new modes of teaching, which would involve technology and, predominantly, electronic curriculum via the Internet.

    Simonson is for it, saying that teachers too often learn to lean on their textbooks like a crutch, and, too often, content in the textbook is seen as the rigid, absolute truth, even if it’s outdated or no longer relevant.

    Social studies is the perfect subject in which to conduct this discussion. It’s a contemporary subject, in that the world around us is changing by the second. So why would you want to spend all that money on a textbook that’s at least partially obsolete the moment you take it out of the box?

    Think about the amazing discussions and learning opportunities that social studies classes could be having in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Think of all the topics that could be touched on, from the marathon itself, to the terrible crimes committed, to the emergency response and the nation’s reaction, and all the way to the omnipresent technology and imagery that resulted in such a fast-moving investigation that identified two suspects for the whole world to see only a few days after the explosions.

    This is an opportunity. Is there risk? Sure, there’s a lot of inaccurate stuff out there on the web. But there are also countless resources to make sure that schools who utilize technology to teach various subjects get the best bang for their buck. All these kids in Crookston already have the opportunity to use their own technological gadgets as part of their learning process; why not keep the momentum going and break new ground on a new social studies curriculum?