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Jean Shin, ASA Minority Affairs Program
On November 22, 2013, in St. Louis, Missouri, ASA sponsored an all-day symposium for high school teachers of sociology. This was the third event of this kind that ASA has sponsored. The first two ASA high school conferences brought high school teachers to the ASA Annual Meetings in Las Vegas and Denver. Although both programs were well evaluated, they were sparsely attended.
After consultations with the ASA High School Planning Program Advisory Panel and also with Susan Griffin, National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) Executive Director, and David Bailor, NCSS Meetings Director, about how to maximize outreach and impact, ASA decided on a new approach. While the previous two years’ high school conferences attempted to bring high school teachers to sociology, it was agreed that ASA would next try bringing sociology to the high school teachers at the National Council of Social Studies Annual Meeting.
The new approach was quite successful. Titled “ASA Symposium: Sociology and the 21st Century Student,” the day-long event was divided into four linked sessions that took place on Friday, November 22 at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel. Nearly 70 high school teachers of sociology attended, many of whom attended multiple sessions. The four ASA sessions were listed as follows:
Session 1: Introduction to High School Sociology Resources
Presenters: Margaret Weigers Vitullo, American Sociological Association; Hayley Lotspeich, Wheaton North High School; and Chris Salituro, Stevenson High School
Session 2: The Social and Economic Impacts of Immigration
Presenter: J.S. Onésimo Sandoval, Saint Louis University
Session 3: Teaching the Sociological Imagination.
Presenters: Hayley Lotspeich, Wheaton North High School; and Chris Salituro, Stevenson High School
Session 4: Teaching with Data
Presenter: Jean Shin, American Sociological Association for Lynette Hoelter, University of Michigan
On September 17, 2013, the National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) released The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: State Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K–12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History. The purpose of the document, known as the C3 Framework, is to show how social studies are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.While the Common Core Standards for school curriculum have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, as well as four territories and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Program, the standards cover Math and English literacy skills only. They do not address the role of social studies in rigorous education at K-12 levels. The C3 project was brought to our attention by NCSS, with the idea that although the social and behavioral sciences (sociology, psychology, and anthropology) were not among the four disciplines commonly viewed as central to social studies and therefore not included in the original document planning, the authors now wanted to consider a role for these additional disciplines.
At a mid-April 2013 meeting hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), ASA, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the American Anthropological Association (AAA) were offered the opportunity to develop “companion documents” to the C3 Framework. The C3 Framework leadership team suggested that APA should create their companion document first, in time to be released in conjunction with the publication of the C3 Framework, and that ASA and AAA might later develop documents of their own. The C3 leadership team went on to suggest that while it would be useful for APA to attend a mid-May C3 Framework planning meeting in Baltimore and bring a draft of their companion document, the other two disciplines probably would not be able to produce draft documents in time and thus did not need to attend.
However, the ASA team knew it was vital to insert sociology into the conversation. Hazel Whitman Hertzberg’s 1981 book, Social Studies Reform 1880-1980, describes how sociology became marginalized in the definition of social studies. According to Hertzberg, early sociologists like Albion Small were concerned about schools but not about curriculum. During the tumultuous debates that took place during the late 1800s and early 1900s regarding the meaning of social studies, sociologists showed minimal interest. By the 1958 publication of the NCSS yearbook New Viewpoints in the Social Studies, sociology was essentially invisible in the field (Hertzberg 1981). Being invisible to social studies, even though social studies content is profoundly sociological, has serious ramifications for our discipline. The fact that most students do not even see the word “sociology” until they arrive in college has negative implications for the number of sociology majors. The absence of regular sociology classes in high schools has stymied efforts to get the College Board to establish an AP sociology course and examination. Moreover, whether we approve of the practice or not, as schools increasingly teach to standardized tests based on the Common Core, funding will flow toward courses and disciplines that are included on those tests. If sociology ignores social studies curriculum in today’s educational context, it does so at its own peril.
With this history in mind, the sociologists present at the April CCSSO meeting told members of the C3 Framework leadership team that they would in fact be interested in attending the meeting in Baltimore, and assured them that they would have a draft companion document ready to present there. In spite of a very short time frame, ASA then assembled an expert writing team and developed a draft companion document, following the NCSS pre-defined format. This writing team included (in alphabetical order):
Jeanne H. Ballantine, Wright State University
Hayley L. Lotspeich, Wheaton North High School (IL)
Chris Salituro, Stevenson High School (IL)
Jean H. Shin, American Sociological Association
Margaret Weigers Vitullo, American Sociological Association
Lissa Yogan, Valparaiso University
At the mid-May meeting in Baltimore, the draft sociology companion document was extremely well received by the C3 leadership team and the larger audience of state education department representatives. The result was good news for all involved: lead C3 Framework author Kathy Swan (University of Kentucky) and the rest of the C3 leadership team decided that instead of encouraging their independent publication, the “companion” documents from ASA, APA, and AAA would be included as Appendices in the C3 Framework.
Through its inclusion in this publication, sociology takes an important step toward becoming explicit and visible in the social studies curriculum. The final version of the C3 Framework was published in mid-September 2013 and highlighted in the NCSS flagship journal, Social Education. Another positive outcome of sociology’s inclusion in the publication was an invitation to organize a C3 Framework Session on the Social and Behavioral Sciences in St. Louis. This session was part of a 10-session block devoted to the C3 Framework and its application and dissemination. The session, titled “Behavioral and Social Sciences and the C3 Framework: Sociology, Psychology, and Anthropology,” included panelists from ASA, APA, and AAA and framed the process and content for audience members.
Since the beginning of 2011, key steps in the planning process have included recruiting a High School Sociology Program Planning Director, Hayley Lotspeich, and Assistant Director, Chris Salituro, two dynamic and organizationally astute high school sociology teachers; holding two High School Teachers of Sociology Conferences at ASA Annual Meetings (in Las Vegas and Denver); establishing a special promotional package to encourage high school teachers of sociology to join the ASA as regular members; and setting up an e-mail list for high school teachers that is not dependent on being a member of the ASA. In addition, the High School Planning Program Advisory Panel has been established, composed of high school teachers of sociology and faculty in four-year institutions who have a strong interest in high school sociology, including individuals who have worked on programs through regional associations and who also have experience with dual credit programs linking colleges and high schools.
The ASA High School Teachers promotion package for 2014 offers category R1 membership and includes subscriptions to both Contexts and TRAILS – a $105 value, for a membership cost of $65.00. Additionally, the ASA High School e-mail list currently has nearly 300 subscribers, and has become an active forum for comments, suggestions, and other feedback on teaching sociology in high schools and related topics.
For more information about highschool sociology, visit www.asanet.org/teaching/HighSchool.cfm.