Open Letter to School Superintendents

The following letter was emailed to superintendents and assistant superintendents throughout the state this past August.


Dear                  ,


It is that time of year again, the most exciting time for all educators…the start of another academic year. The energy and enthusiasm runs throughout the system, from you to the newest teacher and the newest student, from every grade level to every staff member. We (Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies – MCSS) want to take this opportunity to wish you and all those in your school system the very best for this coming year. It is a wonderful opportunity to shape our young citizens into the the active and knowledgeable citizens our nation and state genuinely need. Thank you for leading in that sincere and worthy effort.

Citizenship…it is mentioned in every school system’s mission statement and it is a goal we never disagree about, and yet we see as a nation and as a state and as a community the erosion of Social Studies and Civic Education on an alarmingly consistent basis. Nationwide and throughout the state of Massachusetts, Social Studies instruction (especially grades K-8) has been diminished while greater emphasis/time has been spent on the MCAS tested disciplines. Please be mindful of the notion that a citizenry that is kept ignorant is the most poverty stricken citizenry, and by marginalizing the civic education of our young society, we are genuinely contradicting our very own mission statements.

The MCSS asks that you do all in your power to maintain and improve the level of Social Studies instruction in your system so that we are not abandoning our mission statements nor our citizen students. The  Massachusetts Frameworks for History and Social Sciences begin with the following statements:

Citizens in our society need to understand the current condition of the world and how it got that way, and be prepared to act upon the challenges to democracy in our own day. What are the roots of our current dangers, and of the choices before us? For intelligent citizenship, we need a thorough grasp of the daily workings of our own societies, as well as the societies of our friends and our adversaries, and of those who live amid poverty and violence, with little freedom and little hope.

This is no small order. It requires systematic study of American government and society, of comparative ideologies and political, economic, and social systems; of the religious beliefs that have shaped our values and those that have shaped others; and of physical and human geography. How can we avoid making all of this unto nothing more than just another, and perhaps longer, parade of facts, smothering the desire to learn?


Our [Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education]call for schools to purposely impart to their students the learning necessary for an informed, reasoned allegiance to the ideals of a free society rests on three convictions:

First, that democracy is the worthiest form of human governance ever conceived.

Second, that we cannot take democracy’s survival or its spread or its perfection in practice for granted. Indeed, we believe that the great central drama of modern history has been and continues to be the struggle to establish, preserve, and extend democracy at home and abroad. We know that very much still needs doing to achieve justice and civility in our own society

Third, we are convinced that democracy’s survival depends upon our transmitting to each new generation the political vision of liberty and equality that unites us as Americans. It also depends on a deep loyalty to the political institutions our founders put together to fulfill that vision


First, citizens must know the fundamental ideas central to the vision of the 18th century founders, the vision that holds us together as one people of many diverse origins and cultures. Not only the words — ever only the words — but the sources, the meanings, and the implications of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist papers, the Bill of Rights.

Second, citizens must know how democratic ideas have been turned into institutions and practices, the history of the origins and growth and adventures of democratic societies on earth, past and present.

Clearly the state’s DESE values Civic and Social Studies education and places in your hands under the local control foundation of our state the significant task of this education. We voice our clear and consistent concern about this matter here, our willingness to help in this cause and stand ready to applaud your efforts.




Norm Shacochis

Norm Shacochis, President

Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies

601 Main St

Marshfield, MA 02050

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