As Catholic educators in the field of social studies, we believe that there is an integral connection between this subject and the social teachings of the Church and of Scripture. It is our privilege and our duty to deepen the awareness of this connection in ourselves and in our students. In teaching this social studies curriculum, we will explore the rights and duties of citizenship, the arts and culture of people past and present, the world's geographic and environmental features, the economics of the global community, the struggles of the most vulnerable people in society, and the principles of global solidarity and tolerance for differences.
We believe that we are called to teach the value of citizenship as Jesus did when He spoke of loving our neighbor, hungering and thirsting for justice, and rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. In the words of the U. S. Bishops in 1990:
"We are called to transform our hearts and our social structures, to renew the face of the earth...As believers we are called to bring our values into the marketplace and the political arena, into community and family life, using our everyday opportunities and responsibilities, our voices and our votes to defend human life, human dignity, and human rights."
This is the call of the Church and the Gospel. The social studies educator responds to the call by encouraging active citizenship on the part of his or her students.
We believe that just as Jesus spent most of His life on earth with ordinary folk, listening to their stories and sharing their good times and bad times, so should we incorporate the daily lives of the people into our social studies instruction. Whether it is a study of our neighborhood, our state, our country, or our world, learning about the literature, traditions, and arts of any group of people can only deepen our understanding and respect for the global community, past and present. It is through these avenues that we learn their story, uncover their dreams, and find the expression of their values.
As social studies educators we are called to teach the importance of geography and the environment in the lives of all the world's people. The materials of construction, the food supply, the climate, the agricultural development, the rivers, deserts, mountains, forests, and wildlife - all these impact on the way of life in any society, for better or for worse. The study of the human and environmental interactions of any group of people can help us to better understand them and to evaluate with our students the scriptural and global responsibility to be stewards, caretakers of the earth.
We believe that just as Jesus demonstrated the value of work through the carpentry trade, we should teach the dignity of work, discuss the rights and duties of workers in any society, and model for our students a strong, personal work ethic. "Work is more than a way of living; it is an expression of our dignity and a form of continuing participation in God's creation. People have the right to decent and fair wages....In Catholic social teaching, the economy exists to serve people, not the other way around." (U. S. Bishops' Pastoral, November 1990) In teaching the value of work, it is our hope that our students will discern that a life of discipline, sacrifice, and service is rewarding and that the self-centered life is not.
Jesus in both story and action showed concern for the poor, the disabled, the sick, the children, and the elderly. As social studies educators, our teaching should show the same concern for the most vulnerable people in society. It is hoped that our students will grow in their awareness of what it means to be marginalized as well as in their understanding of the work of those who continue to search for remedies. "Poor and vulnerable people have a special place in Catholic social teaching. A basic test of a society is how its most vulnerable members are faring." (U. S. Bishops' Pastoral, November 1990) Promoting this awareness and providing ways for our students to become part of the solutions is the duty of all social studies educators.
We believe that social studies education is not just teaching facts but also teaching the value and principles of tolerance and solidarity with all people and cultures. "We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and gender differences. We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. In a linked and limited world, our responsibilities to one another cross national and other boundaries." (U. S. Bishops' Pastoral, November 1990) Therefore, we believe that the contributions and lives of women and men should be incorporated into the teaching of social studies. In addition, every effort should be made to identify the contributions of people of diverse cultures and races. If we answer the call to teach as Jesus did, exclusion, bigotry, and discrimination will have no place in our classrooms. Deepening the awareness of solidarity in ourselves and our students can only result in a more just and peaceful world.
It is our sincere hope that the following curriculum will provide our students with a strong foundation in social studies and our teachers with a valuable vehicle of instruction. In addition to learning the factual information in the curriculum, we hope that our students will also be empowered to embrace the values thus stated in this philosophy.
We give credit to the Virginia State developers of the Social Studies Standards of Learning. We have adopted and modified their work to reflect our philosophy and curriculum needs. Special emphasis has been placed on the Catholic Social Teachings which is highlighted as our first objective across the grade levels.
Click here to view the diocesan social studies curriculum.