President’s Message – January 2013

Call for Advocacy…

Happy New Year everyone! And with the new year comes a new session of the General Court in Massachusetts. And with that comes a new call, a new need for our voices to be heard. Please join me in speaking out to all state legislators concerning the condition of Social Studies education in Massachusetts and the need for legislative attention to it. Most legislators are totally unaware of the circumstances in our schools and that the Social Studies are being so drastically diminished. This in spite of the Massachusetts General Law (Chapter 71 section 2) that requires Civics and Social Studies education in all public elementary and high schools in the commonwealth. While many schools are seeing wonderful efforts and initiatives in making Social Studies an integral part of the Common Core curriculum, others sadly are allowing Social Studies to be marginalized in favor of those subject fields that are MCAS tested. We understand why that is happening, but we do not understand how it can be tolerated.

In this past election process and in the glow of a presidential inauguration we should see and experience a renewed sense of the importance of Social Studies education, of Civic Education. Members of the General Court are products of Civic Education and believe that instruction continues to this day in every school at every level. We know that is not the case and need to bring this to their individual and collective attention. Hopefully the recently released Renewing the Social Compact report by the Senate’s Special Commission on Civic Engagement and Learning will alert all legislators to the need for increased attention to Social Studies education everywhere in Massachusetts. However, let us not leave that to chance.

It is time for all of us to write or call our state senators and representatives and let them know of the issue of Social Studies and the need for greater care of it, especially at K-8 levels. What follows here is a letter that I have emailed to every state senator and every state representative on behalf of MCSS. Please take it – personalize it as you wish – and send a copy to your senator or representative. If you wish to simply use it as a framework to draft your own original letter, even better. But PLEASE contact your senator & representative and speak clearly as an Advocate for Social Studies education.

Dear ,

I write to you today representing the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies, but also representing all students in our schools and all citizens of our Commonwealth. Our mission is to support excellence in Social Studies education so that all students have quality learning opportunities in civics, geography, economics and history and are fully prepared to be active and participatory citizens in our society.

I am very concerned about what retired Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, calls the crisis in Social Studies education. Once our schools taught the skills and concepts that were needed not just to succeed in college and career, but also to be a good citizen in a participatory democracy. In addition, employers today are looking for, and the 21st century demands, the kind of critical thinking skills that students used to learn through high quality Social Studies education. However, under NCLB we have seen less attention to and less financial support for the teaching of Social Studies. Federal funding is now $26/student for reading and $19/student for STEM subjects. Currently all federal support for the teaching of Social Studies has been eliminated. As a result, we have seen a considerable reduction in Social Studies teaching time, resources, personnel, and awareness.

As you approach decisions regarding education funding, I urge you to support the teaching of Social Studies content and critical thinking skills by providing resources and classroom time for innovative and creative teaching, curriculum, and professional development in the Social Studies disciplines. I call your attention to the recently released Renewing the Social Compact report by the Senate’s Special Commission on Civic Engagement and Learning. It echoes our concern clearly. With a renewed commitment to teaching Social Studies, we can ensure that students leave our schools with the skills and knowledge they will need to effectively participate in our democracy, confront the major issues facing our society, and ultimately serve as citizen leaders in the 21st century.

Sincerely,

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NERC IS COMING!!

Please join us in Sturbridge, MA April 8-10 for a great conference featuring Norm Ornstein and Trey Grayson as our featured speakers and a wonderful selection of workshops and clinics, presented by some of the best teachers in the nation – our own! You should have received a preview booklet in the mail that has the necessary registration information and/or you can find registration information on this MCSS website. Join us for a day or for the entire conference. It could very well be a Turning Point in your career!