President’s Message – March 2013

Turning Points – this is not just the theme of NERC 44. It is a description of MCSS and the setting for Social Studies education in Massachusetts right now. I vowed to be positive when I took office, an so I will begin with the positive.

The recent Senate and Pioneer Institute reports on SS education have been a great booster shot to our cause, indicators that our voice is being heard. Senator Richard Moore chaired a Special Commission on Civic Education in Massachusetts that met throughout 2012. Sincere and dynamic dialogue resulted in a report – Renewing the Social Compact – that calls for increased SS education in every grade in every year, a revisitation to the Massachusetts Frameworks and a re-institution of the MCAS exam along with increased attention to adult and community awareness of Civic Education. MCSS was represented by myself, Roger Desrosiers, and Bob Kostka on this commission and our efforts were very rewarding, as it does seem that our message was clearly heard. Now we (everyone, not simply the 3 named here) must continue to act to get our state legislators to act on legislation that will make the recommendations in the report come to life! Please write, call, email your legislators to encourage them to become advocates for Social Studies and Civic Education. The Pioneer Report – The Rise and Fall of American History Education in Massachusetts – also highlights the plight of SS education, from our highest attention form school administrations during the implementation of the Frameworks and MCAS to the marginalization of all we cherish since the postponement (elimination?) of the History/SS MCAS. The Pioneer Report refers to the role of MCSS and NCSS in being advocates for SS, and since Pioneer has been an influential factor in education reform and direction in Massachusetts for many years, we are hopeful that this report will add to the re-energizing of SS instruction in all Massachusetts schools, in all grades, in all years. We can now begin to see the light at the end of that tunnel – we may have to squint some, but we can at least begin to see it.

However, there is a side to the Turning Point issue that can not be ignored, and it happens to be a sadder scene. What is the future of MCSS? Our membership numbers continue to slide. Our active members continue to slide. NERC attendance continues to slide. Might there not be a NERC beyond this year? YES. Might there be a skeletonized version of MCSS after this year? YES. Is this scare tactics? NO. It is reality. We certainly hope and plan to continue being the voice of SS in Massachusetts, and we will continue to reach out to educators to help increase our membership and therefore our voice – but others have to respond in order for us to truly succeed. It is your task to join us, get others to join us, and for us to move forward as a forceful voice, a forceful advocate for future educators and the students to come. Does it not shock and disappoint anyone that every department chairperson is not a member of MCSS? That every department chair does not encourage their department members to be MCSS members? That every SS educator does not attend the best regional conference in the nation? One would think all SS educators would be engaged in all these organizations and events, and yet they are not. We realize that the internet provides instant access to resources that years ago were beyond our reach. However nothing trumps being able to have a true dialogue among fellow professionals, whether it is at NERC or at a local workshop created by a local council. We are the best professional development out there, and we ignore each other by ignoring MCSS. Please answer this very sincere and noble call. We can not remain as your voice without you being part of the voice.

Sincerely, Proudly, and Concerned, I am…

Norm Shacochis
President, MCSS