TExES Social Studies 4-8
The Social Studies Content domain of the TExES Social Studies 4-8 exam has about 71 questions. Subjects covered within this domain include:
- Sociology and Geography
Let’s explore each subject!
While studying this subject, you should focus on the following overarching concepts:
- Texas History Key Concepts
- Early US History
- Post Civil War History
To jumpstart your studying, let’s explore a few specific history concepts.
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer known for his expedition through the Gulf Coast of what is now Texas. He originally landed in Florida in 1528 as part of a fleet sent out from Spain to colonize the region. They decided to sail west but by the time they arrived on the Texas coast, storms, disease, and lack of food had significantly reduced the expedition’s numbers to 80. Of that number, only 15 survived on the island now called Galveston until the spring of 1529. Cabeza de Vaca spent the next few years traveling and trading from eastern Texas to northern Mexico. In 1532, de Vaca and the three final survivors lived among natives, the Capoques and Hans nomadic tribes, until finding their way back to Mexico in 1536. Cabeza de Vaca’s experience living with Native Americans led him to advocate for their rights in Spain for better treatment.
Cabeza de Vaca was appointed to govern territory in Mexico in 1542. He wrote what is considered to be the first European description of the geography, people, and animals in the American West. Unfortunately, he was eventually removed from this position and the country, likely due to his outspoken compassion for Native Americans and criticism of the Spanish for their treatment. He was sent back to Spain in 1545 where he was convicted of misconduct and corruption.
Battle of San Jacinto
The battle of San Jacinto occurred on April 21, 1836, and was the concluding military event of Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico. The month before, Texas soldiers were defeated by Mexican forces and their General Santa Anna in the Battle of the Alamo. The defeat provided a rallying cry – Remember the Alamo! – for Sam Houston’s men as they attacked Santa Anna and his troops in San Jacinto. Despite being outnumbered, Houston and his men captured Santa Anna and defeated the Mexican army in twenty minutes.
The Battle at San Jacinto marked the end of the War for Texas Independence. The battle shifted boundaries and created the new Mexican Republic, the Texas Republic, and eventually a larger United States after Texas became a state. After his imprisonment at the Battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna recognized Texas’ independence from Mexico in exchange for his freedom.
Effect of Manifest Destiny on Native Americans
Manifest Destiny would establish actions to increase the size, wealth, and power of the United States. However, its effects were devastating to Native American populations. President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 in anticipation of American migration west. This act facilitated the removal of Native Americans from eastern land considered desirable by American settlers and resettled them in designated “Indian Territory” located west of the Mississippi River. Forced to leave their homes, 15,000 Native Americans began the long journey down the Trail of Tears, Aptly named the Trail of Tears because of its devastating effects. Facing hunger, disease, and exhaustion nearly 3,000-4,000 out of 15,000 Native Americans died along the way.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs was created in 1824 to oversee issues concerning Native American populations. During this time period, the bureau, along with federal and state governments, repeatedly violated the trust of the native populations with unfair treaties, ignored laws, and broken promises. In 1832, the Supreme Court sided with Worcester in the case of Worcester v. Georgia. Worcester was a missionary in Cherokee territory and encouraged the tribe not to cooperate with laws being imposed by Georgia’s government. Georgia responded by passing a law making it illegal for Americans to be on tribal land without the state’s approval. When the Supreme Court ruled that state and federal governments did not have the authority to dictate what happens on tribal lands, the ruling was widely ignored by the states and President Andrew Jackson. State and federal governments continued to violate the rights of Native Americans with impunity.
In May of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act helping dramatically increase settlements in the west. Americans, including women and former slaves, could purchase 160 acres of land by paying for filing fee costs and living on the land for at least five years. The influx of settlers into the western territories forced more Native Americans from their lands and onto reservations established by the U.S. government.
An additional blow to the culture and traditions of Native Americans, the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 ended tribal control of reservation lands, assigning separate plots for individual ownership and allowing the rest to be marked by the federal government for public sale. This division of land was a new concept to many Native Americans who were unfamiliar with this social structure in their communal lifestyles. The goal of the Dawes Act was to assimilate Native Americans into the fabric of American society. Not only did this change impact their culture and social traditions, but it also significantly decreased the power Native American tribes had in their interactions with the federal government.
The Women’s Rights Movement (1848-1920)
Throughout the 19th century, women fought for social reform and rights for themselves and for African Americans. Sarah Grimke was one of the first advocates for women’s rights and pioneered the antislavery movement. She was disappointed from an early age with the educational opportunities women were given compared to men. She and her sister were born in the south but relocated to Pennsylvania as adults speaking and writing in support of the rights of women and slaves. She was heavily criticized for her outspokenness in the political discussion because many found it inappropriate behavior for a woman at that time.
Another notable voice in the early women’s rights movement was Sojourner Truth. An African American abolitionist, she traveled around the country giving speeches on the importance of rights for women and African Americans. She shared her perspective as a woman and a former slave. She is best known for her 1851 speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, highlighting racial inequalities.
In 1848, activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the Seneca Falls Convention. At this first women’s rights convention in 1848, the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments was voted on and approved by the 68 women and 32 men attendees. The declaration included 12 specific goals, or resolutions, for the movement, including a demand for female suffrage. Even at the convention, including a woman’s right to vote as a specific goal was considered controversial within the gathering of women focused on expanding their rights, and this resolution barely passed.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton also worked alongside fellow abolitionists and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony to form the Women’s National Loyal League. This group was primarily focused on abolishing slavery via support for an amendment to the U.S. constitution. Many members were also active in the suffrage movement. Another important activist, Matilda Joslyn Gage, worked with Stanton and Anthony in this group but later parted ways when they disagreed on supporting the Fifteenth Amendment. The women eventually reunited in their work with the formation of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1890.
Despite dedicating their lives to fighting for women’s rights, none of these women lived long enough to see the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, when women finally won the right to vote.
And that’s some basic information about the history portion of the test.
Sociology and Geography
These are the overarching concepts within this subject:
- Human Geography
- Sociology Basics
- Physical Geography
Let’s talk about a few specific sociology and geography concepts.
Geographers identify regions as areas with more similarities or commonalities than differences. Regions are often identified based on shared physical, functional, or cultural characteristics.
Physical regions share physical characteristics such a climate or land formations. For example, the eastern coast of the United States falls into the physical region of the Coastal Plains.
Functional Regions are established by a focus on a central key location, often a large city. An example of a functional region is any area included when a specific city’s metropolis is referenced. For example, “Greater Houston” is a functional region that includes Houston’s urban center as well as all surrounding suburbs.
Cultural Regions are defined by shared cultural characteristics, such as language, government, or religion. In terms of language, North America could be divided into two cultural regions because the U.S. and Canada are both primarily English-speaking countries, while Mexico and Central American countries are primarily Spanish-speaking.
Regions of Texas
Texas contains four natural regions; the Mountains and Basins, the High Plains, the Central Plains, and the Gulf Coast Plain.
The Mountains (or Range) and Basins Region is Texas’s western-most region.
It is characterized by mountains, plateaus, and basins, along with flat desert. The climate in the mountains is cool, but the desert portion is dry and hot, only cooling at night.
The High Plains (or Great Plains) stretch down from the Texas Panhandle and are characterized by flat grasslands. The plains are elevated above sea level, have little rain, and experience a wide range of temperatures.
The Central Plains (or Interior Lowlands) are mostly made up of grasslands and the Hill Country, with mild temperatures and frequent rain.
The Gulf Coastal Plains makes up the southern and eastern portions of the state. It includes the coastal beaches, plains, and woods further inland. The Gulf Coastal Plains receives the most annual rainfall of the four regions in Texas.
Causes of Human Migration
There are four main reasons why humans migrate to new areas; need for water or food, safety, freedom from persecution, and better economic opportunities.
Native Americans in Texas, such as the Apache, migrated throughout the plains regions following the herds of wild animals they hunted for food, demonstrating a historical example of movement based on a need for suitable water or food.
Many civilizations that developed near or in mountainous regions illustrate movement based on militaristic advantage or protection from the elements. The mountains served as a defensive barrier, allowing the people to stretch limited resources to cover more ground.
The Great Migration (also known as the Great Northward Migration or the Black Migration) of the 1900s serves as an example of migration due to both a desire to escape persecution and a desire for a better livelihood. Despite the abolition of slavery during the Civil War, African Americans continued to experience segregation, racism, and violence in the South. Millions of African Americans moved north hoping to find more welcoming communities and take advantage of job opportunities created by a boom in the manufacturing industry. Nearly 6,000,000 African Americans migrated north.
Culture defines habits and daily activities or routines that occur within a community. Cultural elements can include religion, food, language, and social interactions or norms.
Cultures can change over time and be influenced by each other. Cultural adaptation occurs when a person begins living in a new culture and adopts its behaviors and practices. Cultures can also change due to diffusion or exchanges. Diffusion occurs when elements of one culture are adopted as another culture’s habits and norms. Similarly, cultural exchange occurs when two cultures share characteristics with each other, causing both to change.
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement popularized in the 1800s, based on beliefs in independence, idealism, connecting with nature, and rejecting the corrupting influence of society. The philosophy contends that individuals can find and connect with God through a connection to nature. Transcendentalists believe organized groups such as religion and political parties corrupt individual thought. Believing instead of self-reliance and independence.
In the United States, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are identified as proponents of the transcendentalism movement. Emerson wrote Nature which detailed his understanding of the natural world as a path to connecting with God. For two years, Henry David Thoreau isolated himself on Walden Pond in Massachusetts, living as simply as possible. He reflected on his experience separated from society and connected to nature in the book, Walden.
And that’s some basic information about the sociology and geography portion of the test.
These are the main concepts in this subject:
- Basic Economic Concepts
- Economic History
- The American Economy
Here are a few specific economic concepts that you will see on the test.
Basic Economic Concepts
Goods and Services: In an economy, goods are the physical products or objects that can be purchased and services are non-material actions that are performed for a customer. So, buying food at the grocery store to make dinner is a purchase of goods, while paying a personal chef to make dinner for you is a purchase of services.
Needs and Wants: A need is defined as something essential to a person’s health and well-being that they cannot live without, while a want describes goods or services that a person prefers or desires to have, but are not necessary for basic human survival. For example, everyone needs food and water to survive but someone might want a soda and burger to eat because it’s their favorite meal.
Scarcity: Scarcity refers to the limited amount of resources available to fulfill every individual’s unlimited needs and wants.
Factors of Production: The Factors of Productions are the inputs needed for the successful production of a product. These four factors consist of land, labor, capital (physical and human), and entrepreneurship.
Interdependence: No single economy can fulfill all of its wants and needs, which leads to the development of interdependence, or reliance on another country’s supply of goods and services. For example, a country that cannot produce wheat may rely on trade arrangements with a neighboring country to ensure bread is available in their grocery stores.
Economic System: The production and exchange of goods and services are organized within an economic system that dictates how the exchange is managed. The three main economic systems are capitalism (free market), communism (command), and socialism (mixed).
Free Enterprise: A free enterprise economy occurs when the government does not control businesses but allows the market to regulate itself through the successes and failures of entrepreneurialism.
Supply-Side Economics (Reaganomics)
Supply-side economics is the idea that government involvement in the economy should primarily make business production easier. This can be done by decreasing taxes and business regulations with the assumption that increased capital allows more products to be produced and more people to be employed.
President Ronald Reagan was a proponent of supply-side economics, also known as Reaganomics, and attempted to stimulate the economy in the 1980s by reducing income taxes, specifically for those who paid the largest percentage of taxes. These cuts were expected to allow more money to trickle down to those with lower incomes, with the expectation that they would increase their own spending and therefore increase the amount of taxes they paid. That, combined with a reduction of government spending on social programs, was expected to replace the funds lost by lower tax rates.
While the economy was initially improved by the tax cuts, Congress did not cut social programs at the same rate that taxes decreased and the expected “trickle-down” was not experienced. This led to a significant increase in the federal deficit.
Traditional and Post-industrialization Economies
Traditional economies are based on individuals producing items of value and trading those items with other people in their family or tribe to fulfill their needs. For example, a farmer would be able to trade food to a blacksmith for tools. These economies relied on bartering or trade instead of currency. Subsistence agriculture is common in traditional economies.
A command economy is an economy that is controlled by the government. The government dictates how much of a specific product is produced and controls most aspects of its distribution. Exampled by communism.
A market economy is not controlled by the government but determined by the wants and needs of the people. Production varies according to the demand in the market. Exampled by capitalism.
A mixed economy combines characteristics of command and market economies. For the most part, the market dictates production and demand, but the government has the power to intervene and regulate private industry when necessary. Exampled by socialism.
Government Market Regulation and Taxes
Price Controls and Subsidies
Governments can regulate the economy in various ways, including price controls and subsidies.
Price controls place a maximum or minimum price on a product through price ceilings or price floors. This is usually done when the government sees demand for a good or service changing in a way that could have a negative impact on the public. For example, if there is a sudden drop in the availability of gas in an area, demand would be higher than the supply. Without price controls (in this case a price ceiling), businesses could charge customers exorbitant prices because of the increased demand.
Subsidies occur when the government directly pays certain individuals or industries in order to keep their product prices low for customers. Farmers frequently receive agricultural subsidies to help stabilize the cost of commonly grown foods for American consumption.
The government also impacts the economy through taxes. Taxes are used to keep basic government functions operational and pay for different government programs, projects, and services.
Taxes are a trade-off in the economy. While taxes are important and used to fund things that are essential for the country to function properly, like roads and infrastructure, they also limit both the consumer’s buying power and the producer’s ability to expand their business. Taxes can limit economic development by decreasing the amount of money that people have available to invest back into the economy. The most common taxes are property taxes and sales tax.
And that’s some basic information about the economics portion of the test.
These are the overarching concepts within this subject:
- Types of Government
- US Government
Check out these specific civics concepts that are likely to appear on the test.
Origins of Democracy
The roots of democratic forms of government stretch back to Ancient Greece. Ancient Greece was made up of individual city-states, and Athens in particular is known for its early example of democracy. The citizens of Athens would debate ideas, vote on laws, and directly elect some public officials.
Checks and Balances
Each of the three branches of the U.S. government has specific powers to balance the powers of the other branches. For example, the legislature passes laws, but the president can veto those laws. However, the president’s veto can be overturned if enough of the legislature supports the law.
The courts, or judicial branch, can declare laws or presidential acts unconstitutional. As a check against the court’s power, the executive branch nominates the judges, who have to be approved by the legislature to serve on the court.
Landmark Supreme Court Cases
Marbury v. Madison, 1803
The Marbury v. Madison case addressed whether Marbury, who received a last-minute judge appointment by President John Adams, had a valid commission, a paper stating his appointment since he did not technically receive it until President Adams had already left office. While the case was not ruled in Marbury’s favor, it is considered the single most important decision in American constitutional law. This case established that an act of Congress could be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and introduced the idea of judicial review. Simply put, the Supreme Court interprets the law and is the final word on constitutional transgressions.
McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819
McCulloch v. Maryland helped define the scope of Congressional power by determining that federal laws supersede state laws when the two conflict as long as the federal government’s actions are constitutional. After the federal government established a national bank, Maryland attempted to impose taxes on it, but their action was determined to be unconstitutional because the right to have a national bank was protected under the Constitution. This reinforced the constitutional principle of federalism.
Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824
Gibbons v. Ogden established the Supreme Court’s right to regulate interstate commerce, considered a landmark decision. Gibbons operated steamboats between New Jersey and New York City under a federal operating license. New York City previously awarded a monopoly on the use of state waters to Robert Fulton and Robert R. Livingston, who then sold the right of use to Ogden. Gibbons argued that his federal trade license could not be superseded by a state-awarded monopoly. This case established a new understanding of the powers related to the federal right to regulate commerce as described in the Constitution.
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857
Dred Scott was a slave who lived with his owner in a free state where slavery was prohibited for several years before moving back to a slave-owning state. Scott argued that his time in a free state gave him legal grounds for freedom. The court decided that since Scott was of African ancestry, he was not eligible for citizenship and therefore could not petition the court. Under slave laws, Dred Scott was seen as property who does not warrant the rights afforded to American citizens. This infamous court case is credited with contributing to the rising tensions that lead to the Civil War.
The Texas Constitution
The Texas Constitution has many similarities to the United States Constitution, including a limited scope of power, checks and balances, separation of powers, and rights of the individual. Both constitutions organize their governments into three branches – the executive, judicial, and legislative, and both divide the legislature into a senate and house of representatives.
A main difference between the two constitutions is that the Texas Constitution is very specific and detailed regarding the powers of state and local governments. Because the document is so detailed, citizens must frequently pass amendments by voting instead of changes being made by the legislature. For example, the Texas Constitution prevents any state income tax from being collected from any employee who lives in the state. For a state income tax to be established, voters would have to pass an amendment to the Constitution. This process has resulted in the Texas Constitution, adopted in 1876, having 498 new amendments added to it as of 2017.
Fundamental Rights and Laws
Inalienable rights are personal rights held by every individual not given to them by laws, customs, or beliefs. These rights cannot be taken away from a person and cannot be given or transferred to another person. Inalienable rights are inherent to humanity and are part of what distinguishes human beings.
Natural rights are those every individual is born with and retains throughout their lifetime. The United States Constitution includes the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These rights cannot be denied or restricted by individuals or governing powers.
Divine right refers to the belief that certain people are chosen by God to rule others. Divine right provides a doctrinal framework for monarchies and ensures the right of kings and queens to govern regardless of the consent of those they rule since their authority cannot be questioned or opposed.
Types of Laws
A social contract is any agreement a group of people makes to live together cooperatively and benefit society instead of being motivated by choices that benefit the individual. People give up certain rights in order to be governed.
Common law is not explicitly passed by a legislative body as written law but has instead developed from judicial opinions forming customs that set precedents for future rulings.
Natural law is not necessarily enforced by a governing body but is based on the idea that there are objective, moral and universal standards of right and wrong all people understand and use.
And that’s some basic information about the civics portion of the TExES Social Studies 4-8 test.