The discipline of the social scientist abounds with interconnectedness and feedback processes. This makes the topics of social studies ripe for a type of quantitative analysis whose foundation is built upon the study of complex feedback systems. The strength of the System Dynamics (SD) Modeling method is that it focuses on interdependence and multi-faceted closed loop causality.
The types of models that would work well in a social studies class usually involve a population structure. One could analyze how populations grow or decline. But it is not difficult to add another structure that represents a resource upon which the population depends, then study the interaction of the two. Or it is possible to study the interaction of two competing populations, even should that interaction spiral into conflict. Certainly many of the models appropriate for environmental science and/or health and/or economics could be used in social studies stimulating conversation from a public policy perspective.
While social studies topics are rich for modeling, there have been few tools that have made a quantitative study of problems in this area accessible to both students and teachers. Another virtue of the SD modeling approach is that the software used to create the models is visual. It is possible to draw a diagram to represent the explicit dependencies of one segment of a problem upon another segment, without using any numbers. Yet, the true strength of the SD approach is that only simple algebra is needed to define each component in such a diagram, allowing the student to produce graphical output that can then be analyzed. The analysis can lead a student to alter the model diagram or alter values within a component. This analysis can lead students to ask better questions about the problem being analyzed, and anticipate more issues dealing with short-term versus long-term potential policy solutions. It is the ability to stimulate better questions that is the true value of a System Dynamics Modeling approach in the social studies classroom.
OTHER NATIONS AND WORLD AFFAIRS
- How has the United States influenced other nations, and how have other nations influenced American politics and society?
ROLES OF THE CITIZEN
- What are the responsibilities of citizens?
PLACES AND REGIONS
- Understand the physical and human characteristics of places.
- Understand how culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions.
- Understand the physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth’s surface.
- Understand the characteristics and special distribution of ecosystems on Earth’s surface.
- Understand the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth’s surface.
- Understand the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth’s surface.
- Understand the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement.
- Understand how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth’s surface.
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY
- Understand how human actions modify the physical environment.
- Understand how physical systems affect human systems.
- Understand the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.
REVOLUTION AND THE NEW NATION (1754–1820)
- Understand the causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in forging the revolutionary movement, and the reasons for the American victory.
THE EMERGENCE OF MODERN AMERICA (18901–930)
- Understand how Progressives and others addressed problems of industrial capitalism, urbanization, and political corruption.
CONTEMPORARY UNITED STATES (1968–PRESENT)
- Understand economic, social, and cultural developments in contemporary United States.
THE 20TH CENTURY SINCE 1945: PROMISES AND PARADOXES
- The search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world.