Twenty years ago if I had asked a kid who the 16th president was, I would have likely gotten a blank stare and a shrug of the shoulders. Ditto with stuff like the capital of Idaho, when the 14th Amendment was passed, and where the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
The shrugging of shoulders was mostly my fault. I taught in a very traditional style, with my focus on basic content. This method encouraged the memorization of a few facts just long enough to pass the unit test.
I didn’t know any better – it was the way I was taught and it was the way I was taught to teach. In that sort of classroom, long term retention and actual application of knowledge just weren’t going to happen.
We know better now.
Realistic problems. Collaboration. Analyzing evidence. Creation of authentic products. Integration of fiction and non-fiction. Use of technology. Formative assessment.
This is 21st century social studies.