The nation in which we live cannot function without an educated populace. In this unique project begun 300 years ago, I see myself as an inheritor of a monumental task. America’s core functions grind to a halt, gears clogged with corruption, ignorance, and fear. The social studies teacher’s mission is to free our future citizens from the dregs of apathy by enriching our students with the knowledge necessary to feel like an agent of change. The ability to shape one’s environment starts with literacy skills; these form the foundation of an effective citizen. However, no person can feel secure from the unpredictability of life with just a foundation beneath his or her feet. A house must be built from more complex subjects like the social studies. With knowledge of civics, a citizen can participate in the mechanisms of government. Knowing history, our students can make useful analogies and find inspiration from deeds done. Economics gives learners the gift of some certainty in a dynamic world economy. Indeed, each subject within the social studies aims to give students greater independence and a deeper knowledge of the society in which they live.

I have a clear set of goals for my students. First, they should be able to establish themselves as autonomous citizens who feel confident in their knowledge of society. To this end, students should have a useful knowledge of history; a vivid understanding of local, national, and global government; a detailed conception of how to operate in as economic actors in a hierarchical global economy; and a mature perception of human social structures. Second, students should be able to perceive the flaws inherent in the current societal structure and theorize solutions. As has been quoted many times, this country’s foundational aim is to strive towards a more perfect union. I intend my students to add their voices to the chorus of reformative ideas being murmured countrywide.

My classroom will be very aware of the benefits a pluralistic society can produce. A body of philosophy with which I agree has posited that intensely individual experience cannot be stamped out by even the most rigorous normalizing process; humans will continue to have blissfully unique experiences because no two lives can be considered similar by any objective standard. Groupings (based on race, gender, nationality, etc.) are useful for shortcuts, but I would rather foster a renewal of personhood in my classroom. I will absolutely teach the richness that each culture brings to our modern memory, but I intend to remind my students that they can be anyone they aspire to be. No lesson is more valuable and yet more tragically lost. I will teach my students not only to dream for themselves but to absolutely honor, respect, and facilitate their fellow person’s dreams as well.

The actual mechanics of my class would mirror the pedagogies of influential contemporary thought. Ideally, my students will spend the bulk of their time participating in thoughtful discussion with others and myself in their class. In one of the lessons I taught this semester, students engaged in a debate over whether video games cause gun violence. This is a recurring debate in the media, and I wanted my AP psychology students to weigh in. After discussing the topic at length in a structured academic controversy, students formed a near complete consensus that video games can affect emotions and moods, especially in small children, but that video games do not cause violent actions. In a brief essay, students relayed an evidence-driven argument detailing their position. This is a perfect example of my pedagogy at work. Students learned not only a core concept in psychology (nature vs. nurture) but also explored the merits of academic debates and consensus building techniques. Students would also work on long-term projects in groups and constantly be expected to evaluate primary sources. This can be somewhat challenging in a standardized test driven environment, but I will challenge them to connect the events and people they are studying to their own lives. Of course, we will focus on a foundation of material required in the formal curriculum, but I will work to allow students to explore their own interests as well.

In college I majored in history; I wrote extensively on the topic of 19th century education. I have a deep passion for both subjects, but I understand that not everyone is enamored with the idea of reading 200-year-old children’s diaries for their own sake. In order to best capture the attention and imagination of my students, I will work to make history relevant to their own lives in minimally abstract ways. The Virginia Standards of Learning serve as a helpful foundation for my students’ exploration of history; together my students and I will work to meet and exceed the SOL’s demands.

To conclude, I look forward to teaching and rewriting this philosophy once I have more experience as a teacher. As John Maynard Keynes once quipped in response to a critic who challenged his recent change of philosophy, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” I intend to do the same.