Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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LINK: Social Studies in Action Home
Students gathered around a table looking at a document. In This Lesson:.
Exploring The Issues.
Applying What You've Learned.
Resources.
NCSS Themes in This Lesson.
 

Unity and Diversity

What does it mean to teach about unity and diversity in social studies?

Not all educators answer this question in the same way.

Some argue that issues of unity and diversity are subjective, contingent on the demographics of each class or community, and best expressed through individual characteristics and common goals. Other educators believe that a major role of social studies is to highlight the historical backdrop of different races, religions, classes, and cultures that make up a pluralistic, democratic society.

As the American classroom grows increasingly diverse, everyone can agree that issues of unity and diversity present both opportunities and challenges for social studies teachers. The cultural and ethnic diversity found in many classrooms provides teachers with an opportunity to develop habits of mutual respect and appreciation of differences. That same diversity also allows teachers to explore themes of unity by examining the things we have in common. Appreciating one another in the classroom is the first step toward connecting with others in the larger community.

If one of the purposes of social studies is to help students see themselves as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society, then exploring concepts of unity and diversity is a powerful means of attaining that goal.

Overview
Even classes that appear to be homogenous contain diversity -- in terms of gender, personality, and ability. Social studies provides a natural forum for teaching students to recognize and respect differences within the classroom and beyond. In the video, "Unity and Diversity," teachers help students understand differences by:

  • assigning group work that requires consensus about different values,
  • examining artifacts to explore other cultures,
  • integrating other languages in studying a culture or region, and
  • drawing on personal experiences that reveal the prevalence of stereotypes.



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