President’s Message – December 2012

The Election is over; So Let’s Get Political

We are relieved that the election season has passed, if only to escape the endless commercials. No matter who you voted for, no matter where you stood on any issue or philosophy, the campaign season is off our plates for the immediate future. Which puts us at a point of true importance – getting those elected to act. Using Tip O’Neill’s perspective, all politics is local, and it is there where we are seeking action by our politicians. I am asking everyone – MCSS member or not – to contact your state representative and state senator concerning the plight of Social Studies education in Massachusetts. This is critically important, and if we do not take action, no other major voice is out there ready to step up on behalf of the Social Studies. There are a few other organizations that share our concerns, but the MCSS is the major voice of Social Studies in Massachusetts and we must be proactive in this effort.

Having just returned from the Seattle NCSS Conference, it was clear that this issue is a nationwide concern. In state after state, meeting after meeting, the marginalization of the Social Studies is/was an issue. In Massachusetts, the DESE is limited by the local control mandated by the state, and since the demise of the Social Studies MCAS, our discipline has been injured over and over and so we must reach out to our state legislators to make our concerns well known. And there is some progress being made, but we need all legislators to be aware of this issue. The Special Commission on Civic Education (chaired by Senator Richard Moore) is currently working on a set of recommendations regarding Civic Education that will be most welcomed, and we need all legislators to become aware of the recommendations (which will be ready after January). With the NCSS Conference coming to Boston in 2014, we would hope to be the leaders in Social Studies education! And the theme for that conference? “Let Freedom Ring…the Civic Education Mission of our Schools.”

After January when the new session of the General Court is underway, I will be drafting a letter to each state representative and each state senator stating the concerns of MCSS. That emailed letter will be available to MCSS members via the website and via Newsline, and I ask each MCSS member to take that letter, modify it as their setting demands, and forward it to their representatives & senators. If you teach in one district but live in the district of another legislator, please email the letters to more than your own district legislators. This effort is vital. Few of our state legislators know the details of what is happening in our schools. They know about MCAS tests being administered in ELA, Math, and Science but many actually are not aware that no assessment for Social Studies takes place. Fewer still are aware of the decreasing number of minutes allotted to Social Studies in the K-8 school day and the growing occurrence of Social Studies being taught by teachers from other fields. The hope that this endeavor along with the recommendations of the Senate Special Commission and with the NCSS Conference here in Boston just 2 years away will generate some positive action to regenerate Social Studies education to what it always should be in the State of Massachusetts.

 One other note: I have asked Bob Kostka to be a permanent Legislative Liaison for MCSS, so that there will always be a consistent name/voice at the State House for MCSS. That said, this effort can not be the effort of Norm Shacochis and Bob Kostka; and then when my term as president is up at the end of April, it can not become the effort of Bill Hocking and Bob Kostka. This must be the ongoing and limitless effort of all Social Studies educators, all who value Social Studies & Civic Education, and MCSS must be leading this charge. All of Us.

–Norm Shacochis