The study of society and environment (SOSE) is all about context. Without context we are nothing: just solitary individuals leading meaningless existences, devoid of understanding or meaning or wisdom.
Without context we have limbo; hence, it is useful to understand SOSE as a study taking us as far as possible away from that awful place. SOSE is about where we come from and where we are, and hence it is about where we are going. In embracing the traditional disciplines of history, geography, and economy and society, SOSE is putting us in a context which enables us to understand ourselves historically, geographically, and sociologically. This in turn enables us to experience the kind of creative freedom that is only available to people whose lives are built on sure foundations.
Of particular importance, and often neglected in schools, is the study of money. Our understanding of why we need money, how it works, how if affects or even controls us, how to make it and how to lose it, and how to properly use it is something worth developing from the earliest years of school. For example, young children often believe that checkout operators in supermarkets are very rich, because children assume that the cashiers keep all the money that goes into their tills.
Ultimately, ideally, all people should form a world-view. That world-view is more than just perceptions and attitudes. It is, to quote the American academic Yi-Fu Tuan ‘Partly personal, largely social. It is an attitude or belief system…’
It can only be arrived at as the result of a long process, and it must be based upon understanding and knowledge. At the heart of SOSE is a protest against segmentation. Divisions into 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, into spring, summer, autumn and winter, into New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, are artificial but still have meaning. Ultimately though synthesis is more helpful than segmentation. 2006 can only be understood if, for example, 1906 is understood, and 1906 can only be understood if 1905 and 1907 are understood, and an understanding of this whole period must include knowledge of the political and social turmoil caused by the work of Einstein, Freud, Jung, Picasso and Strindberg. The 1900’s were the time of Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers, and therefore the onset of an age in which the opportunities for travel for people who had long been `confined’ to their own districts led to pressure for democracy and socialism, as well as massive environmental and pollution problems. It was a time of turmoil in Russia and China, of the establishment of the Muslim League in India, of revolution in Iran, of the further tightening of Japan’s grip on Korea.
And then there is 1806, and 1706, and 1606… all the way back to that lonely, tough little family of our African ancestors, 60 to 100,000 years ago, and before them the first species of Homo Erectus, more than one and a half million years earlier.
Firstly then SOSE is about context, but it is also about change, and it is for these reasons that it is one of the most valuable subjects on the school curriculum.