Connecting Historical Thinking and Contemporary World Issues

According to the United Nations, there are a myriad of contemporary issues plaguing the planet. From problems surrounding adequate housing to human trafficking to matters of water and sanitation, individuals all over the world daily encounter issues that prevent them from living a healthy or equitable life. The Polaris Project estimates that roughly 20.9 million people (men, women and children) are trafficked for labor and prostitution worldwide and that over 100,000 children enter into human trafficking each year in the United States alone. The current Ohio standards for Contemporary Issues courses bring awareness of human rights issues to the consciousness of high school students, in addition to teaching to be responsible and active citizens within their global community.
The current Ohio standards for high school Contemporary Issues courses analyze how current issues not only affect global connections of nations and individuals all over the world, but also the sustainability of the planet and the global economy. These standards also emphasize technology, in which students are invited to explore how advances in digital communication affect the progress and outcomes of contemporary issues. These standards help students to analyze how the actions of human beings influence one another all around the world – whether politically, economically, socially/culturally, or environmentally. Through these lesson materials, students are taught about information regarding their fellow man, and are given reasonable methods by which they can get involved in helping those issues. Teachers are also tasked with helping their students understand the relationship between the actions of human beings and impacts upon global politics, economy and the environment.
When examining the historical thinking definition once more, the Contemporary Issues standards highlight the multiple accounts and perspectives aspect. In these courses, students are asked to examine the world’s state of affairs from the lens of someone completely different from themselves – a refugee, a trafficked individual, or even someone who is homeless. Through technological resources such as Twitter and Facebook, students are further drawn into the conversation about current events as they encounter individuals facing these issues all over the world. These interactions not only help students to understand the personal viewpoints of those facing these real-life situations, but also aid them in thinking historically as they analyze the context of these events in light of the past. Furthermore, the ability for students to understand the severity of various current issues through technology can springboard efforts for them to get involved, either by assisting major organizations with their relief efforts, or by starting their own movements and efforts for change. Online games such as FreeRice also allow students to become personally involved in contemporary issues (such as national security, human trafficking and the environment) they are learning about by donating necessities for every correct answer they receive in the game.
The multiple accounts and perspectives aspect of historical thinking is also highlighted in the Ohio Contemporary Issues standards as students are asked to consider current events from an environmental and political standpoint as well. Through the sustainability portion of the standards, students are educated about how various actions and organizations (including intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations) impact the physical state of the world in which we live. Teachers are also given the responsibility of showing their students how legislation and cultural factors can also influence Earth’s physical environment as humans make decisions about what lands and resources will be used to accomplish their purposes. From a political standpoint, students are educated about the state of foreign affairs and how governments and organizations can work together to establish treaties and agreements for peace. Students are asked to examine international conflicts and events from various perspectives in order to better understand how actions towards national security and international justice can affect the global economy and state of relations between many nations.
Check back soon for resources and themes to incorporate into Contemporary Issues classrooms! As always, feel free to comment or tweet your questions or suggestions to @ToriMcDonough22 or @SocialStudiesatCSU!

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