Social Science


The years of adolescence are critical in a student’s emotional, physical, and mental development. Students who, at age twelve, are only beginning to be able to entertain abstract historical or political ideas or reasoning processes will normally, by age sixteen, have the capacity to engage in analytical thought that is “recognizably adult.” This change does not emerge full-blown nor, once under development, is it consistently displayed. High school teachers, just as those in junior high schools, must recognize the continuing need of many students for concrete illustrations and instructional approaches if they are to understand and relate to these political and historical studies. However, the secondary school curriculum must provide learning opportunities that challenge students’ growing abstract analytical thinking capabilities if high school students are to be helped to develop these skills.

These more abstract reasoning skills emerge with the adolescent’s development of formal thought. Formal thought allows students to develop abstract understanding of historical causality—the often complex patterns of relationships between historical events, their multiple antecedents, and their consequences considered over time. Formal thought also allows students to grasp the workings of political and social systems as systems and to engage in higher levels of policy analysis and decision making. In addition, formal thought permits students to deepen and extend their understanding of the more demanding civic learnings: understanding, for example, political conflict in a free society and its resolution under law; understanding the fundamental substantive and procedural values guaranteed by the Constitution; and understanding the close and reciprocating relationships between society and the law within a nation whose Constitution is a charter of principles, not a Napoleonic code.

In this curriculum these advanced historical, political, and civic learnings and advanced critical thinking skills are developed in grades nine through twelve.

California Department of Education: History/Social Science Framework for California Public Schools 2009