Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Education


Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Education

by Rodriguez Naseem, Noreen, and Katy Swalwell. (2021)

Reviewed by Natalie House

In “Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary
Education,” the authors are taking on the task of how to teach anti-oppressive history and how to implement those teachings in an elementary classroom. This book aims to “…offer advice for addressing two major fears that the preservice teachers we work with often express: teaching controversial issues and being accused of indoctrination.” Noreen Naseem Rodriguez and Katy Swalwell (2021).” This book showcases the negative realities that the current social studies curriculum offers to all students in America, and takes the audience on a necessary journey that will help educators offer better learning experiences for students moving forward. The authors have created a work that is easily accessible for teachers at any level. Furthermore, the resources and research contained in this book will allow teachers to apply the authors’ ideas in their own classroom.

The authors of the book have taken the time to research different ways in which social studies can be taught. They are able to show multiple examples of effective social studies instruction by describing real lessons that teachers are currently using to help students have meaningful interactions with the curriculum. The authors help guide teachers by discussing the common pitfalls they might encounter while also giving the educators tips and tricks on how to find a solution. All of the examples in this text come with supplemental resources to help the reader implement the lessons or strategies with students easily. Teachers should also feel comfortable utilizing this information because it is all grounded in scholarly research. As a
first-year teacher myself, this book was encouraging and helped to validate my emotions as it pertains to teaching hard histories. It lays out the lessons in ways that are fair to our students, while also celebrating the diversity of all people. This is critical because many students feel ignored, or left out, of the current social studies curriculum.

This book is written in a way that supports teachers, but could also be beneficial to
pre-service teachers. By discussing the most controversial issues to teach, it also gives the educator time to reflect by posing thoughtful questions. These questions are meant to guide the educator through a lesson, however they also give the educator something to think about as well.

For instance, how they have been unknowingly teaching specific histories incorrectly. It offers a refreshing way for students and teachers to consider what information is being taught, as well as the ways that teachers and students are engaging with the content. The use of real-life examples helps connect the reader with the content that is being shared. Additionally, offering practical advice on how to handle the backlash that might come from teaching controversial issues is
something that new teachers will find incredibly helpful.

“In addition to everything laid out in this book about curriculum and instruction,
we must understand the bureaucracy and hierarchy of our states and districts so we can know where best to direct our change-making energies, buffer our credibility with ongoing meaningful professional development, and assess our own safety (mental, emotional, physical, financial) so we know exactly how far we are willing to go,
” Naseem Rodriguez and Swalwell (2021).

The authors do not sugar-coat anything and they let the reader know that teaching histories in this way is not an easy task. However, it is not a task that has ever been easy in the first place.

“Anti-oppressive elementary social studies may not be easy, but it is absolutely worth it (Naseem Rodriguez and Swalwell (2021).” The opportunity for growth through dialogue with students and colleagues is endless with this book. It opens so many doors for educators to walk through and have thoughtful conversations that will benefit our students.

This book by Noreen Naseem Rodriguez and Katy Swalwell is one that I will be
encouraging all of my fellow social studies teachers to read. It was refreshing to read something that was made with so much passion. By using accessible language that all teachers can understand, it made it seem as though teaching these histories today is not as daunting as it might seem. It just takes time to understand and make connections with all of humanity. I feel as though this book did a wonderful job of reaching its target audience. It is well written and has found its place in social studies literature. The reflections and informative way of thinking in this book are
exactly what education needs today, and this is a book that social studies educators desperately need.

My name is Natalie House, and I am a current social studies teacher in Oklahoma. I am currently enrolled at The University of Oklahoma as a Master’s student in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with a focus on Social Studies.

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