Social Studies and Emotional Citizenship

Guest post by Brandon Haas, a professor of social studies education at Plymouth State University and facilitator of Holocaust and Human Behavior for Facing History and Ourselves.

Face the Future puts us in a world where we can tap into the emotions of others. The game provides ample opportunity in the realm of education. We are playing the game with pre-service social studies teachers who are investigating this in two ways. First as a way to investigate global and social issues, while fostering the level of critical thinking associated with imagining these futures. Critical thinking surrounding some of the futures has led to rich discussion of morals and ethical questions, as well as how this may affect many of the issues currently faced by society as a result of feeling the “other,” something that could have major implications in our current social climate.

It also brings up a regular question of our reliance on technology as a means of escape. Would addiction to feeling become an issue?

#FeelThatShadow Card played on Twitter: People may get addicted to feeling certain ways and not be able to function with just their own feelings.

In social studies education, we often promote the discussion of controversial issues in the classroom. The questions raised in Face the Future suggest that this could lead to some controversial issues related to law (as shown below), addiction, and privacy.

ACT Card: Make important decision makers unbiased by making them disconnect for deliberation. Like for juries so they only look at the facts. In response to SHADOW IMAGINATION: Would a jury be more likely to make an emotional decision rather than a rational one?

Students have much to gain from a thorough investigation of controversial issues and the development of empathy is often a goal of such learning activities, especially when discussing these issues through the use of individual’s experience or testimony. When we learn about the Holocaust or other acts of genocide, would survivors want to share those feelings with students and teachers? Would it be appropriate to do so? I wonder if this would help to make “Never Again” a reality if people were able to truly understand what others feel. By adding in the layer of feeling what others can feel brings issues of othering, prejudice, and bigotry to the forefront in a way that could effect real change. There are also questions that arise as a result of FeelThat entering the classroom.

Would this lead to a new type of learning? How do we be mindful of our emotions and scaffold learning emotional citizenship. Much like we have to teach our students how to successfully and responsibly navigate the internet, we’d have to create a new framework for moral and ethical behavior as it relates to emotion. Would we have to determine how to teach students when it is responsible to share emotion? Emotions have always been such a private part of our lives that allowing them to enter the public sphere is difficult to truly conceive of. How do we avoid trivializing the feelings of others when we can experience it first hand, as 9th Grade Team asked?

SHADOW IMAGINATION card played on Twitter: What if you get made fun of for having certain emotion or feeling #FacetheFuture #FHNTCLE #Shadowimagination

What age does it become appropriate and responsible to factor this into curriculum? Would legislation regulate its use? By integrating FeelThat into our daily lives, it becomes crucial to factor in social-emotional learning, as well as moral, and character education. These are facets of education that are already central to social studies and with a new platform such as this, the need for a greater focus becomes clear.