The social studies department plays a crucial role in promoting the educational beliefs of the American International School – Salzburg. The members of the social studies department recognize their roles as mediators between students and the world, attempting to inspire in students a genuine enthusiasm for learning to gain understanding of the global society in which they are an integral part. In an international school it is essential that we study the world’s rich and diverse cultures, both past and present, to recognize political, economic, and intellectual forces which continue to shape our society so that the modern world will not be crowded merely with haphazard events and media images, devoid of perspective and meaning. Heeding the ancient Greek call “Know Thyself”, we challenge our students to know the society in which they live and their responsibility to it.

The department attempts to integrate the various disciplines of social studies, history, geography, and economics, in an informal way. We include mapwork in history lessons, historical examples in economics, historical background in geography, and questions in civics in history. In addition, we strive to teach across the curriculum whenever appropriate and relate social studies to other disciplines such as literature, science, art, philosophy, and foreign language.

In our study of social studies we attempt to promote democratic principles and encourage students to consider the merits of democracy, the conditions which sustain it, and the conditions which weaken it and destroy it. Through discussion and group work in class students learn to cooperate and function within a community of learners and thus become better acquainted with democratic practices. By examining alternative political systems, we encourage students to consider the extent of which equality, human rights, dignity, and civic responsibility are possible in non-democratic systems.

In studying societies of the past and present, students are encouraged to view individuals and groups objectively and fairly, but at the same time critically. At no time should students begin to feel intellectually or morally superior or adopt a condescending attitude towards those who lived in the past or live in different societies today. Still, it is essential that students acquire the experience, ability, and confidence to judge and evaluate critically. History teaches us that where judgement is absent and indifference prevails, tyranny, persecutions, blind obedience to mass movements, and inhumanity thrive. Whether they become lawyers, craftsmen, doctors, teachers, or businessmen, they will be required to evaluate and judge. The study of social studies, as much or more than any other discipline, can teach students to evaluate with fairness, kindness, experience, and confidence – in short, with wisdom so that regardless of their role in society, they will act responsibly and nobly.