As social studies educators, 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 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.
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