Students need the intellectual power to recognize societal problems; ask good questions and develop robust investigations into them; consider possible solutions and consequences; separate evidence-based claims from parochial opinions; and communicate and act upon what they learn. Most importantly, they must possess the capability and commitment to repeat that process as long as is necessary. Young people need strong tools for, and methods of, clear and disciplined thinking in order to traverse successfully the worlds of college, career, and civic life.
The study of social science helps people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world. The integrated study of the social sciences and humanities promotes civic competence. Within the school program, social science provides coordinated, systematic study of such disciplines as anthropology, economics, geography, history, law, political science, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics and natural sciences.
In January 2016, Illinois adopted Illinois Learning Standards for Social Science, based on the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies.
In social studies, disciplinary concepts are divided among the major disciplines of social science: civics, history, economics, and geography. These standards are taught in conjunction with inquiry skills. Standards on themes are aligned to the disciplinary concepts for our K-5 learners. The themes are:
Kindergarten: My Social World
First Grade: Living, Learning, and Working Together
Second Grade: Families, Neighborhoods, and Communities
Third Grade: Communities Near and Far
Fourth Grade: Our State, Our Nation
Fifth Grade: Our Nation, Our World
The middle grades provide a bridge between the elementary and high school experiences. Reflecting the unique nature of our students and the schools in which they learn, the structure of the middle grade social science standards is unique. Unlike the elementary and high school standards, the middle grade standards do not assign particular content to each grade level. Rather, these standards focus on the developmental need of middle grade students: to cultivate the critical thinking skills used by social scientists through the inquiry process. The disciplinary concepts of civics, economics, geography, and history are integrated within the curriculum (Illinois State Board of Education, 2016). Students should be able to utilize the inquiry process to analyze foundational knowledge, develop questions (about the past, present, and future), apply tools to research, weigh evidence, and develop conclusions.