An understanding of global events and conditions is incompete—even impossible—without the perspective of history and social studies. History strives to answer questions about what happened, and social studies strives to answer questions about why things happen. Awareness of these forces informs students' ideas about how to respond and act in the face of events and circumstances around the world.
By looking at the influences of history and social studies on their immediate environment, students begin to extrapolate about the factors that create living conditions, social movements, economies, conflict, alliance, and cultural and political institutions. Looking at these influences on their own lives prompts students to ask questions, synthesize knowledge and information, and apply ideas and hypotheses to explain the world. They can then learn to apply these same skills and behaviors to their view of historical and social influences affecting other parts of the world. Inquiries like these inform greater understanding of issues such as world poverty, economic policy, resource distribution, and international initiatives around trade, environment, and human rights.
The study of history and social science has always contained a component of citizenship education. Learning how to participate in social and political institutions, make good decisions on issues beyond one's own personal interest, and contribute productively to the economy and to society in general are all founded on a recognization that the individual is accountable for the events that become history and for society's initiatives. A global approach to history/social studies enables students to recognize how their local actions touch and influence others half a world away. Having achieved this realization, students can then imagine ways to address local and global challenges for the benefit of all.
The pace of change in the world is accelerating, and the problems of the world are increasingly big and complex. The capacity to respond requires commitment, rational optimism, inventiveness, and the willingness to act. Examples of these characteristics abound in history, across boundaries and cultures. These examples were influenced by the societies, traditions, and institutions from which they arose. Through a comprehensive study of global history and cultures, students learn by these examples that history can be forged through individual and collective action.
To learn about Asia Society's professional development opportunities for teachers and leaders in global competence, contact Kate Farmer [[email protected]].