A history and critique of social studies

Michael Knox Beran writes that social studies curricula are Comtian, collectivist, and culturally barren, falling far from a liberal arts conception of learning.

Hat tip: John Fea



  1. What a fascinating history of “social studies”. I always equated it with “history” and did in fact wonder why it had a different name. It never occurred to me that it was a conspiracy, or that I should analyze it for subtle socialist programming. But I guess kids wouldn’t. I think I might feel a bit betrayed or poisoned if I wasn’t so thoroughly pro-liberty already. In fact, maybe it worked as a counter-script. 🙂

    The McGuffey Readers sound fascinating. I loathed the majority of what we were forced to read in English and Literature classes. They were so often depressing, flimsy, and irrelevant to my life. Where were the deeply compelling, insightful, and uplifting works? Did literature have no need of those? I don’t think we reached many such classics, just disappointing new classics.

    Perhaps I’d have grown more passionate about education simply with more engaging material, but I’ve been generally struck recently by the compulsion of education, and whether it is necessary, and whether it breeds aimlessness. What should be expected after years of compulsion but an inability to decipher our own enjoyment, because we learned to suppress it to do what was required of us.

    Bah, maybe I’m just sleepy and grouchy. Good night! 🙂

  2. I’d like to learn more about McGuffey Readers myself. I generally didn’t enjoy the stuff that we read for English, although part of it was that we were forced to read them at someone else’s pace. I often ended up speeding through it the night before. If I had been a more disciplined high schooler, it might have been better.

    I’ve thought a lot about compulsory education, too. Our kids won’t be going to public schools because 1) the Kankakee schools are bad and 2) I don’t have much faith in the public education system to even know what it wants children to know or how it wants to teach them. I’m quite interested in the classical Christian model that, ideally, is both rigorous and passes on the cultural heritage of the West (including the Christian faith).

    I think that the public education system will not look the same in 50 years and think that part of the solution to all this is to wind down government involvement and let families and other associations educate their children as they wish.

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