By Alex Bruno, SED 2015
As I sat in my Teaching Historical Literacy class, the voices of Howard Zinn and Peter Gibbon flowed from the speakers; eloquently arguing the place of teaching patriotism during a time of war within America’s classrooms. Both having spent time at Boston University, Zinn as a professor and Gibbon as a senior research fellow, this conversation really felt as if it was hitting home. And as the debate began to unfold, it became evident to me that these two men were having a conversation much bigger than themselves; Zinn was not merely advocating for a more honest approach to analyzing the United States place in history and Gibbon was not just stating that students should be taught informed loyalty to their country. These two men were having a larger conversation that happens every single day between educators. They were talking about what the students of this country should be taught and what they should walk out of the classroom knowing.
So then, what does it mean to teach social studies? To answer this question, I thought back to all the courses I have taken throughout my time at BU and what my professors have taught me. I can think back to my very first history class at BU, entitled American Popular Culture. Through books like Peyton Place, Passing and Focus, my professor showed me how to look at history through the eyes of the people and the popular culture of that time period. Fast forward to sophomore year and my professor is breaking down the intricacies of US foreign policy and its repercussions around the world. Now move to junior year and I am being taught the importance of citizenship education and having students take an active role in their community. And now put yourself back into my Teaching Historical Literacy classroom, a senior only a few months away having my own class as a student teacher.
But during this reflective cycle of thought, a peaceful revelation came to me; that revelation being that there is no predicated method to teaching Social Studies. Teaching this subject can be everything from examining the trends of urbanites through the lens of Alfred Hitchcock in Rear Window to discussing the ramifications of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It can be something as minute as touring your students through the city they live and explaining its geography or as large as getting them to register to vote in their first election. This freedom truly embodies the beauty of teaching social studies and as long as we as educators push students to become more open minded active human beings in their community and in their schools, this freedom will never change.
Alex Bruno is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in History.