Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices, Vol 8, No 1 (2014)

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Teaching a “Social Studies without Guarantees”: Disrupting Essentialism, Ameliorating Exclusions and Planting Seeds

Bryan Smith


Social studies, burdened with the responsibility of elucidating the complexity of the cultural and social world of the student, inherits from its disciplines (history, geography, civics) a legacy of racialization and exclusion. For the past few years, I have worked through and from within this legacy to highlight some ways that the pedagogical imperatives held by the students can be used to reshape popular and taken-for-granted notions of who the “we” is in social studies inquiry. Specifically, I focus on Stanley’s (2014) exclusionary premise, emphasizing how the discipline and curriculum privileges specific notions of the national and provincial world of the students. Through this, I offer some insights into the ambivalences, resistances and acknowledgments of the students when confronted with unsettling social and historic understanding.

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Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices is a non-commercial initiative committed to the ethical dissemination of academic research and educational thinking. CLTP acknowledges the thoughtful dedication of authors, editors and reviewers to develop and promote this open journal initiative. The journal receives copy-editing sponsorship from the Faculty of Education at the University of Oulu, Finland. CLTP has previously received  copy editing support from the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice at the University of Nottingham, UK.