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The content-free social studies classroom: James Kendra at TEDxMuskegon

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James Kendra has been a teacher since 1987 and has been teaching Social Studies at Kenowa Hills Middle School for the past 19 years. He holds degrees from Muskegon Community College, Michigan State University, and a masters degree from Grand Valley State University. In his talk "The Content-Free Classroom," James explains that social studies is the most important class students take in school - but not when the emphasis is on facts and dates. He believes in creating a classroom where teachers help students make connections between the present and the past to help them plan for their futures. A place where students cultivate their interests and discover their passions. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
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Text Comments (32)
Jade Shangle (2 months ago)
This guy was my teacher and he was lit but I slept most of the time in his class
DatChickenTho 6 (5 months ago)
I only had Mr.Kendra for a semester and I can easily say he was one of my favorite all time teachers
Kay Jay (7 months ago)
Yawn, step up your presentation,
Tom Cunnington (9 months ago)
Its interesting how much easier it is to learn the subject when there is not the pressure of a deadline.
Shivam Sanoria (10 months ago)
Excellent
Plum stingray (10 months ago)
He’s my teacher this year
Aeris Davis (10 months ago)
I had him for social studies in 7th grade, bruh
chase parsley (1 year ago)
I get the importance of applying social studies to life today, but can’t we have current events as part of the curriculum in a history class so we don’t skip the history? I think it is an extremely dangerous thing to simply say that our students do not need a foundation of knowledge, and we can simply look up stuff we don’t know to suffice for this gap. Having a foundation of knowledge is critical to interpret events and question things in life, isn’t it? I am very skeptical of this look it up world we live in. Some things are really complicated, like the Holy Roman Empire, communism, the Protestant Ref., etc. etc. and I think sometimes students need a push in the right direction to learn these things.
Sanjiv Gogoi (1 year ago)
In Assamese Kendra means centre... I just want to say that... It's better to hear about social studie
Matthew McClure (1 year ago)
The moment Kendra shows an article and a map, there is content. Facts and dates are far less important than critical thinking. However, every subject involves some context, content, and understanding. Same is true for the workplace.
I love the discussion of interdisciplinary action and how it relates to social studies. I got a minor in math and enjoyed english in college but I want to teach social studies because I want to see my students actually apply those skills to question and understand the world around them today first and retrospectively learn history in the process. In that sense, math and language arts and science are like meta-subjects or prerequisites to the contemporary and local analysis that social studies must have as its foundation. It's an educational cycle that displays the complimentary nature of differing pedagogical fields and ultimately the importance of educators in all those fields! TEACHERS RULE!
null (2 years ago)
Man, this was my 7th Grade SS teacher. I'm glad to see him after so long, and he did great.
Now first hour
2018 my SS teacher the best 3rd hour
Buckweat231 (1 year ago)
that is grreat
Armando7654 (3 years ago)
and the leftist brainwashing continues! The method "social studies" use to destroy United States is to relate US, not to it's own past, it's history, but to OTHER nations! That method comes from the school of anti-realism. This charlatan is replacing one relation for another: American for non-American!
Jonathon Osborne (7 months ago)
Dude your just plain crazy. We don't understand who we are in a bubble. You've got to look at others to see the relation.
Hey You (3 years ago)
If kids learn that at an early age they are most like to be more involved in politics, in their communities, and practice their right to assemble.  I think the standardized testing limits teachers ability to do this sort of stuff. maybe im wrong, but i know kids don't want to learn about what happened 100 years ago since they dont deem it useful. I wish I was exposed to such things in my school years. You did a great job sir..
+Hey You i agree, its very difficult to have students care about the Ottoman Empire, They will only learn if they can see value in the material, and sometimes it's very difficult to make that student-history connection.
Mieke Jacobs - Tankink (3 years ago)
I still remember a lot of what I learned in 8th grade social studies.  Let's base an experiment in education on your miserable experiences.  Perhaps a bad teacher.  If not 8th grade, then when will students learn US history?  There is plenty of time to learn social studies.  It's a bigger picture than your world view.
Elliott Rivera (3 years ago)
*giving
Elliott Rivera (3 years ago)
I enjoy that teaching method where the students are involved through their personal devices. i remember being in class and texting most the time anyway. So by getting the students a reason to be on their devices is innovating.
Mr. Beat (4 years ago)
Understand the world now first- I couldn't agree more!
Ichiba Opac (1 year ago)
Mr. Beat I see your point but understanding the here and now is impossible without knowing how it came to be that way. I in no way endorse the old form of studying history with the memorization of dates and wars. Knowing the present is important but it doesn't tell us anything unless we have something to compare it to.
Jordyn Elizabeth (4 years ago)
This is so good I want him as a teacher!!!! I hate social studies but I would love it if I had him as a teacher!!!!
DatChickenTho 6 (2 years ago)
Jordyn Elizabeth he is very chill
Dan Wood (4 years ago)
That's right. Keep the kids working so hard and focused on tests, so they can't learn about what is important.  Give them the tunnel vision they need to blind them.
jesse willis (4 years ago)
A decent historical analysis does analyze economics and civics. In fact the first lessons I planned were on the economics of Indian cultures. I couldn't graduate with my degree if I just regurgitated facts. I had to formulate arguments about cause and effect or content that displayed conditions of life that you couldn't just figure by reading.  You had to have analytical skills to assess things like that. I'm all for eliminating content requirements that restrict the use of these skills. But if you are really doing history, you would have to place events in the contexts of government and civics and economics. Maybe he's on to something about ordering events to showcase different concepts like economics.  He sounds like he might have been a political science major.
Jonathon Osborne (7 months ago)
Yawn...history is a bore half the time. No need to get hung up on the miniscule details. It's the big picture narratives that are important. He has it right when he says modern history is most important.
Bravo Bruckner (4 years ago)
History isn't about memorizing facts and dates.... The field has changed since the (?) 80s? when he went and got his bachelor's.  You want to talk about cutting content, then trim back on this amalgam of bunk fields that now comprise "social studies."  Social slush is more like it. Your view of economics seems to be more "consumer science." 
Ichiba Opac (1 year ago)
Bravo Bruckner history in most EU countries today is about making connections between the here and now and the past, and make informed guesses at what consequences it can have in the future. History should not be seen as a separate part of social studies, but as an integral part of it. Knowing how things came to be is equally as important as knowing how they are right know because without it there is no perspective. / studying to be a history teacher in Sweden.
genetics notice (2 years ago)
In the 1980s we were saying exactly the same thing: in the past, probably the 1950s/60s history was all dates and tests.

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