1st Edition

Social Studies for a Better World An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators

    256 Pages
    by Eye On Education

    Plan and deliver a curriculum to help your students connect with the humanity of others!

    In the wake of 2020, we need today’s young learners to be prepared to develop solutions to a host of entrenched and complex issues, including systemic racism, massive environmental problems, deep political divisions, and future pandemics that will severely test the effectiveness and equity of our health policies. What better place to start that preparation than with a social studies curriculum that enables elementary students to envision and build a better world?

    In this engaging guide two experienced social studies educators unpack the oppressions that so often characterize the elementary curriculum—normalization, idealization, heroification, and dramatization—and show how common pitfalls can be replaced with creative solutions. Whether you’re a classroom teacher, methods student, or curriculum coordinator, this is a book that can transform your understanding of the social studies disciplines and their power to disrupt the narratives that maintain current inequities.


    Part I

    Why Social Studies Can Change the World

    1 The Social Studies

    2 The Transformative Potential of Social Studies


    Part II

    Common Pitfalls and Creative Solutions

    3 Normalization: Families and Holidays

    4 Idealization: Communities and Community Helpers

    5 Heroification: The “Founding Fathers,” Suffragists, and Civil Rights Movement Leaders

    6 Dramatization and Gamification: Immigration, “Westward Expansion,” and Slavery


    Part III

    Planning and Sustaining Anti-Oppressive Social Studies

    7 Building Better Curriculum

    8 How to Teach Anti-Oppressive Social Studies and Not Get Fired


    Epilogue 169


    Appendix A: Recommended Resources: The Tip of the Iceberg

    Appendix B: Educator Tools and Guides


    Noreen Naseem Rodríguez is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Education and Educational Justice in the College of Education and Core Faculty in the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Michigan State University. She studies the pedagogical practices of Asian American educators and how elementary educators teach so-called “difficult histories” through children’s literature and primary sources. Before becoming a teacher educator, she was a bilingual elementary teacher in Austin, Texas for nine years.

    Katy Swalwell is Lead Equity Specialist for the Equity Literacy Institute and founder of Past Present Future Media & Consulting. A former classroom teacher and tenured university professor, she explores how social studies education can help people of all ages become better at identifying and disrupting oppression. In addition to publishing research in peer-reviewed journals, practitioner magazines, and other academic books, she has created the Amazing Iowa children’s book series (amazingiowa.com) and co-hosts an irreverent history podcast called Our Dirty Laundry, which examines white women’s complicity in white supremacy.

    "[T]his instructive, informative, and anti-oppressive pedagogical textbook is a long anticipated, how-to guide for explicitly promoting social justice and implicitly democratizing learning in the primary grades…. [I]n-service teachers, administrators, and those with a role in curricular decisions will also find the book to be helpful for rethinking Eurocentric practices and increasing young learners’ enthusiasm via discipline-specific rigor….[W]ill generally enrich the syllabi of like-minded college instructors."—Education Review

    "No one should step into a classroom without first reading Social Studies for a Better World. The book sings with possibility about creating classrooms of justice and kindness. It is the book that all teachers need in these hard times."—Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor, Rethinking Schools

    "Speaking as scholars, educators, mothers, and human beings, Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell offer the support and inspiration educators need to skillfully practice anti-oppression in our classrooms and to prepare children to carry that practice into their lives outside of school."—Carla Shalaby, author of Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School?

    "Brilliantly conceptualized, Social Studies for a Better World offers essential insights for understanding how social studies can help students decipher the past and make sense of the present. It is essential reading for anyone who believes in the power of social studies to transform society."—Hasan Kwame Jeffries, host of the podcast “Teaching Hard History,” and Associate Professor of History, The Ohio State University

    "[T]he book that elementary social studies educators have been asking for and Rodríguez and Swalwell powerfully delivered. It is unapologetically critical and provides us with clear reasoning for the importance of engaging in anti-oppressive social studies teaching and the tools for how to begin the work necessary for creating a better world....[A] long-awaited treasure for critical elementary educators, teacher candidates, and teacher educators alike."—Teachers College Record

    “This book exudes hope. It offers a comprehensive roadmap for elementary teachers to design and implement anti-oppressive social studies with children. The narrative text begs the reader to join, think together, and learn in a conversational style. My students often note that they feel as though they are talking with other teachers of young children as they read this book. I feel the same. The narrative voice throughout the book reads as a story of hope and possibility, and the authors ground that hope and possibility in practical applications. ... This book is the book I wish I had when I was an elementary teacher because I would have been far better equipped to be a critical social studies teacher who could both dream and act."—Lisa Brown Buchanan, Elon University, Book Review in Theory & Research in Social Education, 51:4, 661-663.