Those reasons might include equipping students with knowledge that can help them make better decisions in civic, personal, community, work, and family contexts or teaching scientific methods that produce better understanding of human and social phenomena.
One approach is to develop curriculum modules for teaching SBS subjects to minimize the burden for teachers.
Interestingly, respondents said that the study of SBS was less likely than the study of the natural sciences to be associated with having a well-paying job, but that it was more likely than the study of natural science to be associated with having a more fulfilling job and one that benefits society.
Roder suggested that people’s perception that there are more well-paying jobs related to computer science and mathematics compared to SBS may be partly driven by “a very literal definition of careers you can have if you study social sciences,” she said.
However, a psychology degree is not simply preparation for a career as a psychologist; rather, psychology majors pursue a wide range of careers.
Perhaps, she suggested, the very fact that social and behavioral sciences offer so many options contributes to confusion about the career paths available.Whereas the path from a computer science degree to a computer science job is more straightforward, the path from a psychology degree can lead in many different directions.When asked when different subjects should be introduced to children in school, Roder reported, more than 30 percent of respondents thought mathematics and science education should begin in elementary school or earlier: see Figure 1.Prompted with a list of attributes, respondents associated the natural sciences with important innovations and life-changing discoveries; in contrast, they more often associated the social sciences with offering different and better perspectives on the world.The respondents associated science and technology disciplines more with logical reasoning and problem solving, but they associated SBS more closely with understanding people and wider points of view.In contrast, only 15 percent thought SBS education should begin that early.One potential explanation for these responses may be respondents’ views on what subjects they see as important for later success: more than 80 percent of respondents said mathematics and computer science are extremely or very important subjects for future success, while the natural sciences and social sciences were seen as less important: see Figure 2.From health to education to business to homeland security, the social and behavioral sciences (SBS)—which include psychology, political science, economics, anthropology, and sociology—contribute to solving important problems for individuals, organizations, and society.Although they are taught widely at the university level, they have far less presence in K-12 education where students’ core knowledge is shaped.Respondents with SBS in their own educational backgrounds saw SBS as more important to education than those without such backgrounds. Public Perceptions of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Presented at Teaching the Social and Behavioral Sciences: Past, Present, and Future. Suggested Citation:"The Social and Behavioral Sciences in K-12 Education: Past, Present, and Future: Proceedings of a Workshop--in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Roder said these preliminary results offer a starting point for exploring public perceptions of SBS in greater depth and considering their implications for K-12 education.Figure 1 Public perceptions about when a person’s education subjects should be introduced. Potential next steps include increasing public awareness of the many jobs, including well-paying ones, to which SBS degrees can lead and sharing stories that convey the common ground of social and behavioral sciences and their relevance to society and people’s everyday lives.