A couple of days ago I ran past the movie Moneyball during one of my late night sweeps through the videosphere and it jogged my thinking a bit. I had read the Michael Lewis book years ago and enjoyed the movie but not until this week did I really start to see the connections between Moneyball and social studies.

What caught my attention was a specific scene in the movie. Billy Bean, the main character, is being recruited to manage the Boston Red Sox baseball team. During the scene, the Sox owner says:

. . . anybody who’s not tearing down their team down right now, and rebuilding it using your model – they’re dinosaurs.

Yeah, I know. Without the context of the book / movie, it doesn’t really make sense. So if you haven’t already skimmed through my thoughts from earlier in the week, head over there for a quick Moneyball 101.

The point of the book / movie is to that doing things differently can be a good thing. It can be difficult at times but doing things the way we’ve always done them – simply because of tradition – doesn’t make sense. Billy Beane re-defined what success in baseball looked like by doing things differently.

Social studies is like that, I think. We do things because it’s the way we’ve always done them. Because we’re convinced that what we’re doing right now is good enough. Because perhaps we get so busy in the day to day that it’s hard to see the big picture.

The big picture?

In the 21st century social studies classroom, we need to start thinking like Billy Beane and realize that the foundational knowledge, the stuff of social studies, hasn’t changed but how we and students interact with that knowledge has.

. . . and any teacher that’s not re-thinking their curriculum and instructional design right now, and rebuilding it based on historical thinking skills and the inquiry model – they’re dinosaurs.

We need to start having more conversations about what success looks like in the social studies classroom. Because it’s more than doing well on a multiple choice test or being able to copy and paste answers from a textbook onto a packet of paper and pencil worksheets.

We need to start talking more about Social Studiesball. Maybe Historyball? I like Historyball better. We need to start talking more about Historyball and what that looks like in the classroom.

Need a jumpstart? Here are a few resources to get the discussion started.

  • Doing Social Studies
    The Kansas Council for the Social Studies started a new web site this summer highlighting classroom teachers and their best lessons and ideas.
  • Reading Like a Historian
    Sam Wineburg and others at the Stanford History Education Group have put together both a handy book and web site that gives you instant access to 100s of lessons focused on historical thinking skills.
  • Historical Thinking Resources
    I’ve cobbled together a list of web sites and print resources that provide a clearer vision of what success looks like.
  • Classroom Videos
    The Teaching Channel has a wide variety of videos showcasing high quality social studies instruction and assessment.
  • Historical Scene Investigation
    It’s a small site with a limited number of lessons that might not even fit your specific content but it’s a great place to get a sense of what a classroom focused on historical thinking skills and problem solving can look like.

What can you add to the Historyball conversation?