Conceptual structures and studies of society and environment: shifting sands or is the beach bare?
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Social Studies has been a contested area for over a century in many countries. Typically the focus has been on inter or multii-disciplinary approaches at the primary school level and separate subjects including history and the social sciences at secondary school level but this can also vary widely between countries and over time.According to Ross (2001) social studies has had, and is having, an identity crisis. There is a need for a subject that addresses the real problems of the 21st Century society, and in particular a social justice perspective with opportunities for students to think and act responsibly. Yet, no clear consensus of how this might be achieved has emerged. In an earlier volume, Gilbert (1984) refers to the 'aspiration and failure in the social subjects'.The initiative in Australia in the early 1990's to create a new school subject, "Studies of Society and Environment" (SOSE) was either commendable and worthwhile or shortsighted and pragmatically sterile, depending upon your point of view. What is needed is debate about the conceptual structure. Research studies are needed urgently to examine the impact upon schools, teachers and students. Does SOSE have an integrity of its own? Can it be justified as a worthy reconceptualisation of the field?These questions and related issues are examined in this paper, in an attempt to discover where the "shifting sands" are heading and to see if there is anything "left on the beach" to develop and refine.
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