Main menu

News and Advocacy

Take Action! Social Studies Appropriations Update-June 2012

The United States Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to pass its funding bill for health and education programs for next year. Budget cuts forced difficult tradeoffs and even cuts to popular programs. However, it is disappointing that once again, the bill included no federal support for teaching history, civics, geography or economics. This is even more disappointing because the Senate created a new competitive grants program to support instruction in the arts. Now, we don't have anything against teaching the arts. In fact, research shows that engaging arts programs can help reduce high school drop out rates and engage students in academic study (not unlike engaging approaches to teaching the social studies!) But it is discouraging that the Senate acknowledged the importance of the arts, without any recognition of the social studies.

So, what did the arts do to grab the attention of Senate appropriators? Why were the arts funded? And is there anything we can, or is it time to throw in the towel?

The arts community sent a loud and clear message to Congress about the importance of funding for the arts. How did they do it? They deployed all the skills they learned in their high school civics classes! Teachers, students, administrators, celebrities - they emailed, called, and met with their Members of Congress to talk about the contribution that the arts make to a well-rounded education. Their community was strongly united, and the phone calls, emails, faxes, and meeting requests came pouring in. The result? Competitive grants for the arts.

History, civics, economics and geography is well represented in DC, and NCSS leadership has been working hard in concert with other organizations in our community to carry our wins in the Senate ESEA reauthorization bill over to the funding bill. But we need more voices, more boots on the ground. And we need them in a hurry. In short, we need YOU!

The House subcommittee making decisions about education and health funding has postponed its consideration of its bill until some time in the second week of July. This gives us a short period of time to push legislators to include funding for the social studies in their version of the FY 2013 funding bill. But if we want to be successful, it is absolutely vital that Members of the House hear loud and clear from large numbers of constituents letting them know that funding for the social studies is a priority. Representatives can also cosponsor the Sandra Day O'Connor Civic Learning Act, which will send a message about the importance of funding innovative programs in civic education.

So, what can you do? Take five minutes to make one important phone call. Then, ask your colleagues, friends, neighbors and family to do the same thing!

  1. If you don't know your Representative's name, go to www.house.gov and look him or her up by entering your zip code.
  2. Call the DC office for your Representative at the number listed on the Member's website, or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and ask to be connected to that Representative’s office.
  3. Ask whoever answers the phone in your Representative’s office to connect you to the Legislative Assistant who handles education issues.
  4. When you talk to the assistant (or leave a message) identify yourself as a constituent. Ask if your Representative would please do two things:
    • Call Chairman Rehberg and ask for competitive grants for civics and for history in the Fund for the Improvement of Education in the FY 2013.
    • Sign on as a cosponsor of H.R. 3464, The Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Learning Act.

Even though it's summer vacation, it's time to take Congress to school!

Take Action! Social Studies Appropriations Update-June 2012

The United States Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to pass its funding bill for health and education programs for next year. Budget cuts forced difficult tradeoffs and even cuts to popular programs. However, it is disappointing that once again, the bill included no federal support for teaching history, civics, geography or economics. This is even more disappointing because the Senate created a new competitive grants program to support instruction in the arts. Now, we don't have anything against teaching the arts. In fact, research shows that engaging arts programs can help reduce high school drop out rates and engage students in academic study (not unlike engaging approaches to teaching the social studies!) But it is discouraging that the Senate acknowledged the importance of the arts, without any recognition of the social studies.

So, what did the arts do to grab the attention of Senate appropriators? Why were the arts funded? And is there anything we can, or is it time to throw in the towel?

The arts community sent a loud and clear message to Congress about the importance of funding for the arts. How did they do it? They deployed all the skills they learned in their high school civics classes! Teachers, students, administrators, celebrities - they emailed, called, and met with their Members of Congress to talk about the contribution that the arts make to a well-rounded education. Their community was strongly united, and the phone calls, emails, faxes, and meeting requests came pouring in. The result? Competitive grants for the arts.

History, civics, economics and geography is well represented in DC, and NCSS leadership has been working hard in concert with other organizations in our community to carry our wins in the Senate ESEA reauthorization bill over to the funding bill. But we need more voices, more boots on the ground. And we need them in a hurry. In short, we need YOU!

The House subcommittee making decisions about education and health funding has postponed its consideration of its bill until some time in the second week of July. This gives us a short period of time to push legislators to include funding for the social studies in their version of the FY 2013 funding bill. But if we want to be successful, it is absolutely vital that Members of the House hear loud and clear from large numbers of constituents letting them know that funding for the social studies is a priority. Representatives can also cosponsor the Sandra Day O'Connor Civic Learning Act, which will send a message about the importance of funding innovative programs in civic education.

So, what can you do? Take five minutes to make one important phone call. Then, ask your colleagues, friends, neighbors and family to do the same thing!

  1. If you don't know your Representative's name, go to www.house.gov and look him or her up by entering your zip code.
  2. Call the DC office for your Representative at the number listed on the Member's website, or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and ask to be connected to that Representative’s office.
  3. Ask whoever answers the phone in your Representative’s office to connect you to the Legislative Assistant who handles education issues.
  4. When you talk to the assistant (or leave a message) identify yourself as a constituent. Ask if your Representative would please do two things:
    • Call Chairman Rehberg and ask for competitive grants for civics and for history in the Fund for the Improvement of Education in the FY 2013.
    • Sign on as a cosponsor of H.R. 3464, The Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Learning Act.

Even though it's summer vacation, it's time to take Congress to school!

Surveying the Social Studies Landscape

Running for a position on the NCSS Board of Directors is such a personal thing. Although each elected individual will serve as a representative for the organization, their reasons for running vary widely. For some, there is the desire to give back to the organization for years of excellent conferences and stellar journals; for others, it is to bring a voice to a specific constituency. Still others have a cause that they support passionately and that they feel should hold more prominence in NCSS’s goals and activities. This multiplicity of views makes for lively debates and intense feelings that actually help the board lead the organization. The problem that sometimes arises, however, is that we cannot always see the forest for the trees. How can we get a big picture of where we are, and in which direction we should head to reach a desired destination?

The problem has been exacerbated over the last several years because the financial recession that swept the nation has affected NCSS as well. Suddenly, the primary concern for the board was not what programs to start or continue funding, but merely balancing the budget. We have succeeded, although not without pain or anxiety. The combined efforts of a talented board willing to face the problems squarely and make difficult decisions and a dedicated staff that bit the bullet and worked to make things happen has resulted in an organization that is back on track financially.

A Membership Survey

One of the lessons learned during this financial crisis was that there needs to be a clear vision of where money is spent and why. How will this specific expense support the goals of the organization? To that end, the board authorized a membership survey to determine just where the members felt we should be spending our money. Many of you participated in this survey, which was sent to current members and lapsed members. (Some non-members were surveyed as well, to see if there is an unmet need that NCSS could consider answering.) The results of the survey gave the board insights into the views of the members and will shape the strategic planning of the organization over the next few years. For instance:

  • Of those surveyed, 65.9 percent heard about NCSS from either a colleague or a university instructor. That personal association is still our best membership tool, one we all need to exercise continually.
  • When asked what factors influenced an individual to join NCSS, 69.1 percent said classroom resources and 53.1 percent indi- cated the NCSS publications.
  • Social Education remains our biggest publication attraction. However, even in this age of digital presentation, 80 percent said they preferred receiving the publication by mail. However, 80 percent also indicated that it was of medium or high impor- tance for us to put the journals on line. Interesting dichotomy here.
  • Of no great surprise, 71.8 percent of those surveyed rated the annual conference of either medium or high value among the services provided by NCSS.

The Big Five

When the survey asked members to prioritize the top five issues facing NCSS, the list that emerged demonstrates a clear desire by those surveyed for attention to developing the content, skills, and curricula necessary for effective social studies education, as well as an advocacy program for the social studies profession.

  1. Teaching 21st-century skills; civic, financial, and entrepreneurial literacy; global awareness
  2. Integrating social studies with other core subjects
  3. Developing common state social studies standards
  4. Strengthening social studies as part of the K-6 core curriculum
  5. Advocating for the social studies profession

We have our work cut out for us! Each of these has been part of the NCSS vision over the years; now we have a clear mandate to provide our members with the tools they need to be effective educators in today’s world.
Our members have shown us which trees they want cultivated. Now it’s time to get to work!

(originally published in The Social Studies Professional , March 2012
Sue Blanchette
President, 2011-2013

Surveying the Social Studies Landscape

Running for a position on the NCSS Board of Directors is such a personal thing. Although each elected individual will serve as a representative for the organization, their reasons for running vary widely. For some, there is the desire to give back to the organization for years of excellent conferences and stellar journals; for others, it is to bring a voice to a specific constituency. Still others have a cause that they support passionately and that they feel should hold more prominence in NCSS’s goals and activities. This multiplicity of views makes for lively debates and intense feelings that actually help the board lead the organization. The problem that sometimes arises, however, is that we cannot always see the forest for the trees. How can we get a big picture of where we are, and in which direction we should head to reach a desired destination?

The problem has been exacerbated over the last several years because the financial recession that swept the nation has affected NCSS as well. Suddenly, the primary concern for the board was not what programs to start or continue funding, but merely balancing the budget. We have succeeded, although not without pain or anxiety. The combined efforts of a talented board willing to face the problems squarely and make difficult decisions and a dedicated staff that bit the bullet and worked to make things happen has resulted in an organization that is back on track financially.

A Membership Survey

One of the lessons learned during this financial crisis was that there needs to be a clear vision of where money is spent and why. How will this specific expense support the goals of the organization? To that end, the board authorized a membership survey to determine just where the members felt we should be spending our money. Many of you participated in this survey, which was sent to current members and lapsed members. (Some non-members were surveyed as well, to see if there is an unmet need that NCSS could consider answering.) The results of the survey gave the board insights into the views of the members and will shape the strategic planning of the organization over the next few years. For instance:

  • Of those surveyed, 65.9 percent heard about NCSS from either a colleague or a university instructor. That personal association is still our best membership tool, one we all need to exercise continually.
  • When asked what factors influenced an individual to join NCSS, 69.1 percent said classroom resources and 53.1 percent indi- cated the NCSS publications.
  • Social Education remains our biggest publication attraction. However, even in this age of digital presentation, 80 percent said they preferred receiving the publication by mail. However, 80 percent also indicated that it was of medium or high impor- tance for us to put the journals on line. Interesting dichotomy here.
  • Of no great surprise, 71.8 percent of those surveyed rated the annual conference of either medium or high value among the services provided by NCSS.

The Big Five

When the survey asked members to prioritize the top five issues facing NCSS, the list that emerged demonstrates a clear desire by those surveyed for attention to developing the content, skills, and curricula necessary for effective social studies education, as well as an advocacy program for the social studies profession.

  1. Teaching 21st-century skills; civic, financial, and entrepreneurial literacy; global awareness
  2. Integrating social studies with other core subjects
  3. Developing common state social studies standards
  4. Strengthening social studies as part of the K-6 core curriculum
  5. Advocating for the social studies profession

We have our work cut out for us! Each of these has been part of the NCSS vision over the years; now we have a clear mandate to provide our members with the tools they need to be effective educators in today’s world.
Our members have shown us which trees they want cultivated. Now it’s time to get to work!

(originally published in The Social Studies Professional , March 2012
Sue Blanchette
President, 2011-2013

Joint Statement in Opposition to Book Censorship in the Tucson Unified School District

January 30, 2012

The undersigned organizations are committed to protecting free speech and intellectual freedom. We write to express our deep concern about the removal of books used in the Mexican-American Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District. This occurred in response to a determination by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal that the program “contained content promoting resentment toward a race or class of people” and that “materials repeatedly reference white people as being ‘oppressors….’ in violation of state law.” The books have been boxed up and put in storage; their fate and that of the program remain in limbo.

The First Amendment is grounded on the fundamental rule that government officials, including public school administrators, may not suppress “an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” School officials have a great deal of authority and discretion to determine the curriculum, the subject of courses, and even methods of instruction. They are restrained only by the constitutional obligation to base their decisions on sound educational grounds, and not on ideology or political or other personal beliefs. Thus, school officials are free to debate the merits of any educational program, but that debate does not justify the wholesale removal of books, especially when the avowed purpose is to suppress unwelcome information and viewpoints.

School officials have insisted that the books haven’t been banned because they are still available in school libraries. It is irrelevant that the books are available in the library – or at the local bookstore. School officials have removed materials from the curriculum, effectively banning them from certain classes, solely because of their content and the messages they contain. The effort to “prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, [or] religion” is the essence of censorship, whether the impact results in removal of all the books in a classroom, seven books, or only one.

Students deserve an education that provides exposure to a wide range of topics and perspectives, including those that are controversial. Their education has already suffered from this political and ideological donnybrook, which has caused massive disruption in their classes and will wreak more havoc as teachers struggle to fill the educational vacuum that has been created.

Book-banning and thought control are antithetical to American law, tradition and values. In Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous words, the First Amendment is founded on the belief:

that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile; … that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination …. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, [the Framers] eschewed silence coerced by law …. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.

The First Amendment right to read, speak and think freely applies to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, or national origin. We strongly urge Arizona school officials to take this commitment seriously and to return all books to classrooms and remove all restrictions on ideas that can be addressed in class.


American Association of University Professors
Cary Nelson, President
1133 19th St., NW, Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20036
202-737-5900
cnelson@illinois.edu

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
Chris Finan, President
19 Fulton Street, Suite 407
New York, NY 10038
212-587-4025
chris@abffe.org

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona
Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011-0148
602-773-6006
ameetze@acluaz.org

Antigone Books
Trudy Mills and Kate Randall, Owners
411 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705
520-792-3715
info@antigonebooks.com

Association of American Publishers
Judith Platt
Director, Free Expression Advocacy
455 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
202-220-4551
jplatt@publishers.org

Association of American University Presses
Peter Givler, Executive Director
28 West 36th Street, Suite 602
New York, NY 10018
212-989-1010
pgivler@aaupnet.org

Atalanta’s Music & Books
Joan Werner, Owner
38 Main Street
Bisbee, AZ 85603
520-432-9976

Authors Guild
Paul Aiken, Executive Director
31 East 32nd Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
212-563-5904
PAiken@authorsguild.org

Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking
Dr. Kathryn F. Whitmore, President
N275 Lindquist Center
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242
319-335-5434
Kathryn-whitemore@uiowa.edu

Changing Hands Bookstore
Gayle Shanks, Bob Sommer and Cindy Dach, Owners
6428 S McClintock Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283
480-730-0205
inbox@changinghands.com

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Charles Brownstein, Executive Director
255 West 36th Street, Suite 501
New York, NY 10018
212-679-7151
charles.brownstein@cbldf.org

Freedom to Read Foundation, an affiliate of the American Library Association
Barbara M. Jones, Executive Director
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
312-280-4226
bjones@ala.org

International Reading Association
Richard M. Long, Ed.D.,
Director, Government Relations
444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 524
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 624-8801
rlong@reading.org

Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association
Laura Ayrey, Executive Director
8020 Springshire Drive
Park City, UT 84098
435-649-6079
laura@mountainsplains.org

National Coalition Against Censorship
Joan Bertin, Executive Director
19 Fulton Street, Suite 407
New York, NY 10038
212-807-6242
bertin@ncac.org

National Council for the Social Studies
Susan Griffin, Executive Director
8555 16th St, Ste 500
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301.588.1800 x 103
sgriffin@ncss.org

National Council of Teachers of English
Millie Davis
Senior Developer, Affiliated Groups and Public Outreach
1111 West Kenyan Road
Urbana, IL 61801
800-369-6283 ext. 3634
mdavis@ncte.org

National Youth Rights Association
Alex Koroknay-Palicz, Executive Director
1101 15th Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
202-835-1739
akpalicz@youthrights.org

PEN American Center
Larry Siems, Director, Freedom to Write & International Programs
588 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
212-334-1660 ext. 105
lsiems@pen.org

PEN Center USA
Adam Somers, Executive Director
P.O. Box 6037
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
323-424-4939
adam@penusa.org

People For the American Way
Debbie Liu, General Counsel
1101 15th Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20005
202-467-4999
dliu@pfaw.org

Reach Out and Read
Anne-Marie Fitzgerald
Senior Director of National and State Programs
56 Roland Street, Suite 100D
Boston, MA 02129
618-455-0600

Reading is Fundamental, Inc.
Carol Hampton Rasco, President/CEO
1255 23rd Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20037
202-536-3500

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Lin Oliver, Executive Director
8271 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323-782-1010
linoliver@scbwi.org

Spark Teacher Education Institute
Educational Praxis, Inc.
P.O. Box 409
Putney, Vermont 05346
802-258-9212

Student Press Law Center
Frank LoMonte, Executive Director
1101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1100
Arlington, VA 22209-2275 USA
703-807-1904
flomonte@splc.org

TESOL International Association
John Segota, CAE
Associate Executive Director for Public Policy & Professional Relations
1925 Ballenger Ave., Suite 550
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-518-2513
jsegota@tesol.org

A Window of Opportunity

Over the next few weeks, states around our nation can join Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee in submitting waivers to the requirements of the federal education law No Child Left Behind (NCLB). At the recent NCSS Annual Conference in Washington, DC, attendees were told about the new waiver policy and the role that social studies could play in it.

Before you can understand this important opportunity, you need to understand the waiver program. The U.S. Department of Education created the waiver program to address the fact that most states will not be able to meet the reading and math proficiency goals set by NCLB. A state government can apply for a waiver by submitting a written plan showing how it plans to work on improving instruction and student learning.(1) Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his staff have suggested that the social studies community may wish to participate in creating these waiver applications. This is the moment for you and other social studies teachers in your state to begin discussions (if you have not already done so) about the importance of the social studies curriculum and how it relates to state and national education policy. This is a great opportunity to meet with the social studies curriculum specialist in your state and establish a relationship that could be a long and fruitful one.(2) It’s a chance to emphasize to your state department of education the need to increase instructional time for social studies at all grade levels, and to include social studies subjects among those that are tested. You can also point out that the Common Core Standards link history and other social studies subjects to reading and writing skills, and show how these subjects are important for the development of student literacy.(3)


Whit W. Grace, Chairman, Government Relations Committee, NCSS and Mike Jehnson, Director, “Making Connections” (TAHG, Mississippi)


Notes

1. “Obama Administration Sets Rules for NCLB Waivers,” Education Week (September 22, 2011), blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2011/09/obamaadministrationsets_rule.html.
2. Find your social studies specialist by inquiring at your state’s department of education. Click on the map at www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state/index.html.
3. Reach the authors by e-mail at wwf.grace@gmail.com and jeansonm@mccomb.k12.ms.us respectively.

Rho Kappa National Honor Society for High School Students

Rho Kappa National Honor Society for High School Students was launched during the 2011 NCSS Annual Conference in Washington D.C.

NCSS is now accepting Rho Kappa charter applications! Rho Kappa is the National Social Studies Honor Society for High School Students. Visit the Rho Kappa website to learn more about the Honor Society and to download an application.

http://rhokappa.socialstudies.org/rhokappa/Home/

NCSS Letter to Hawaii DOE-2011

The attached letter was written on behalf of social studies educators in Hawaii to the HI DOE. Educators in Hawaii alerted the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) that they were considerin reducing the number of social studies credits for high school graduation from four to three credits. We urged them not do so.

Honolulu Civil Beat on 9/15/2011 titled "Hawaii Ed Department Drops Plan to Cut Social Studies Requirements." Click here to view the full article:http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/09/15/12860-hawaii-ed-department-...

New Report -- Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools released "Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools" September 15. This new report "provides research-based evidence of the decline in civic learning in American schools and presents six proven practices that should be at the heart of every school's approach to civic learning" and includes recommendation for policymakers.

smarrow.gifDownload the Full Report from The Civic Mission of Schools

smarrow.gifMore Information on the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools

9-11 Commemoration Resources

2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. NCSS has collected resources from its journals Social Education, Social Studies and the Young Learner, and Middle Level Learning that teachers can use when preparing to teach about 9-11 and acknowledge the upcoming anniversary. Also listed are several additional online resources.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - News and Advocacy
Stay Connected with NCSS:   Follow NCSSNetwork on Twitter FaceBook.png rss_0.gif NCSS