Trust Me I Need Complexity

Disrupting simplified and sanitized social studies in elementary classrooms


  • Jessica Ferreras-Stone Western Washington University



Social Studies, Historically Marginalized, Race, Eurocentric, History Textbooks


Elementary social studies can and should be taught through an age-appropriate lens of complexity which includes multiple perspectives that students evaluate in order to form evidence-based claims.  Social Studies textbooks have often been critiqued for oversimplifying historical events with sanitized versions of the past (Calderón, 2014; Ladson-Billings, 2003; Loewen, 2008; Peterson, 2008). The tendency in elementary social studies has been to smooth over conflict (Cowhey, 2006; Peterson, 2008).  To help elementary teachers disrupt sanitized versions of social studies, I urge that we start trusting students to grapple with complex narratives.  First, I demonstrate the prolific existence of sanitized stories in social studies textbooks.  Next, a rationale for and descriptions of complex narratives are provided.  Lastly, a ‘Complex Questioning Framework’ is presented to help educators identify sanitized social studies in order to add the necessary complexities.



How to Cite

Ferreras-Stone, J. (2022). Trust Me I Need Complexity: Disrupting simplified and sanitized social studies in elementary classrooms. Annals of Social Studies Education Research for Teachers, 3(2), 15–24.