The Early Years of NCSS
The first steps toward establishing NCSS were taken in 1920. Its organizational meeting was held at the Department of Superintendence meetings of the National Education Association in Atlantic City on March 3, 1921.
NCSS was inspired by the Northeastern Illinois Social Science Round Table developed by Earle Rugg, which met at the Chicago YMCA in 1919. Rugg was then a high school teacher in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, who contacted social scientists and teachers of history and social studies to form the nucleus of the round table. When Rugg went east in September 1920 to Teachers College as a graduate student to work with W. C. Bagley, he contacted some other "social studies professionals"-Daniel Knowlton, Harold Rugg (Earle's older brother), Roy Hatch, and J. Montgomery Gambrill-and the five decided to form a new group based on the ideas of the round table. This new organization was at first called the National Council of Teachers of Social Studies, but the name was soon changed to National Council for the Social Studies. Its stated purpose was "to bring about the association and cooperation of teachers of social studies (history, government, economics, sociology, etc.) and of administrators, supervisors, teachers of education and others interested in obtaining the maximum results in education for citizenship through social studies ("A National Council for the Social Studies" 1921, 144).
At the organizational meeting, the influence of historians was much in presence. As its first President, the group elected Albert McKinley, who was editor of The Historical Outlook and a member of the American Historical Association (AHA) Committee on History Teaching in the Schools. Rolla Tryon, an AHA stalwart on the University of Chicago faculty, was elected Vice-President, and Edgar Dawson of Hunter College was elected secretary-treasurer. Both had been members of earlier AHA Committees. Earle Rugg was named Assistant Secretary ("A National Council for the Social Studies" 1921).
According to Earle Rugg, "The eastern boys froze us out, Albert McKinley and Edgar Dawson" (Rugg 1966; Murra 1970). The meeting only laid the groundwork for a permanent institution; the actual shape of the Council would be determined largely by the newly elected executive committee. The president was "to appoint an Advisory Board of fifteen members" ("A National Council for the Social Studies" 1921, 144).
Almost immediately, NCSS began to be a player in the debate about the school curriculum. Boozer notes that "in 1921 ten ... committees representing these fields (e.g., history, civics, economics, and sociology) were busy at work making recommendations for the school curriculum. These committees and their predecessors had, in most cases, worked independently of each other" (Boozer 1960, 164). Thus, pressure was already growing to include all of these social sciences in the school curriculum. It was noted that the social studies needed much more attention and organization in schools: "... it is not certain that all have learned that the social studies constitute a group of subjects which must be viewed as a group and not as separate disciplines, wholly independent of each other. There still remains a tendency among the historians, economists, political scientists and sociologists to work too independently of each other" ("A National Council for the Social Studies" 1921, 144).
NCSS sought support and attracted representatives from a number of social science groups, particularly AHA. The secretaries of these organizations were urged "to assist by getting their members to join the Counciquot; (Rugg 1921, 190). Shortly thereafter, however, Dawson wrote that these organizations had "turned out to be a handicap in the development of these [social] studies." Advocates of each subject wanted to be sure it was adequately represented in the schools. In particular, "the historians feel that there is a danger of history being replaced by a patchwork collection of unrelated and unsystematic materiaquot; (Dawson 1921, 330).
At the AHA conference in St. Louis in 1921, it became clear that, though AHA was very supportive of NCSS, it was still a bit nervous, fearing the weakening of history in schools. The conference theme was "Desirable Adjustments Between History and the Other Social Studies in Elementary and Secondary Schools." This topic was discussed in the AHA Report of 1921 (AHA 1921, 121-24), and the lead paper of the conference, by R. M. Tryon, was published in The Historical Outlook of February 1922. AHA suggested that a joint Commission be formed to represent the interests of the various scholarly groups to be represented under the new umbrella of NCSS. The Joint Commission on the Presentation of Social Studies in Schools was subsequently formed through AHA. It had two specific tasks-to continue "the study of the presentation of social studies in secondary schools and to plan appropriate cooperation with other agencies working in the same field" (Report of the Joint Commission on the Presentation of Social Studies in the Schools 1923, 53).
The AHA Executive Council also made clear its approval of NCSS and "noted that the desired cooperation with other associations can best be obtained through a council, or joint body, embracing representatives of the organizations concerned" (AHA 1921, 59-60). Dawson observed that "this movement [toward a Commission] was stimulated by a conference which met in Pittsburgh at the call of Professor [L. C.] Marshall and which represented economists, sociologists, political scientists and schools of business." Those attending the conference had decided to support rather than replace the National Council (Dawson 1922c, 46). Making an important practical point, Dawson affirmed that a commission of scholars was insufficient without "representative school administrators and students of education including curriculum makers ... What the commission lacks, the National Council has-contact with the teachers" (Dawson 1922c, 46-47).
Soon after NCSS was founded, it was clear that its potential educational role and influence was attracting widespread interest. Representatives from a number of educational associations met in 1922 as part of the new Joint Commission on the Presentation of Social Studies in the Schools, and agreed to meet again. The groups involved were AHA (represented by Arthur Schlesinger and Henry Johnson), the American Economic Association (W. H. Kierkhofer and L. C. Marshall), the American Political Science Association (R. G. Gettell and W. J. Shepard), the American Sociological Society (R. L. Finney and E. C. Hayes), the National Council of Geography Teachers (Edith P. Parker and R. D. Calkins) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (again, Marshall and C. I. Ruggles). The Commission concerned itself with a number of matters, among which were "a social study program from elementary and secondary schools, the history of the teaching of the social studies and current experiments in the presentation of the social studies" (AHA 1923, 54). AHA supported this endeavor with a number of caveats, including a request that the Commission become part of the Executive Council governing body of NCSS.
AHA's caveats were heeded by NCSS, and the NCSS Board of Directors was composed of representatives of each of the various social science associations until 1928. Also added to the Board were representatives from the Department of Superintendence of the NEA, the National Association of Elementary Principals (NAEP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the National Council of Normal School Principals, the National Society of College Teachers of Education, the New England History Teachers Association, the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, and the Pacific Coast Branch of the AHA. Time would show how difficult it was to maintain both diversity and a sense of direction.
The new spirit of cooperation moved NCSS to the forefront of social studies and the examination of the relevant parts of the school curriculum. Dawson stated that, had the founders of NCSS known that there would be such an outpouring of cooperation from the associations, it would have been attempted at the founding of NCSS: "The members of the established associations seemed to think that it was better for them either to stay out of the movement or to take an active part in its guidance" (1922a, 317). Fearing that they would be shut out of the curriculum, the associations chose to get involved, and NCSS seemed to be the most objective vehicle within which to do so. Although all of the social science associations wanted greater influence, they voluntarily compromised on NCSS as a "broker" of the social studies in schools and, led by AHA, began to popularize the use of the term "social studies" within their associations.
Earlier in 1922, Dawson (1922c) had noted one of the initial (and long-standing) problems of NCSS-its choice of names:
One thing that stands out in the way of some who would like to support the National Council more freely than they do as yet is its name. The title "Social Studies" is not fully understood; possibly it is not subject as yet to logical definition ... The term "social studies" was used for lack of a better one-one that would not be so cumbersome as to hamper facile discussions of the elements of this field. (46)
Dawson went on to note that a fight over the term would not be good tactics.
NCSS President McKinley and Secretary-Treasurer Dawson were skilled organizers rather than researchers or scholars, and they invested their talents from the beginning in attempts to build up the new organization rapidly. The chief goal of NCSS in its earliest years was the recruitment of members. An initial modest goal was to try to get a member in each state, and then to involve them in statewide membership drives. At the February 1922 meeting in Chicago at the Central YMCA, this was a key topic of discussion, as was the first NCSS constitution, which was approved at that meeting.
In December 1922, Secretary-Treasurer Dawson published his first annual summary of NCSS plans and progress in an issue of The Historical Outlook, which he edited as the first Yearbook of National Council for the Social Studies. In this issue, short articles on characteristic elements of the social studies were authored by prominent professors. In that same issue NCSS also ran an advertisement seeking new members, and listing the NCSS officers and advisory board.
The NCSS leadership in the early years was primarily composed of college professors. Vanaria observes that those members "who comprised the officers, executive committee and advisory board in 1921 numbered 14 college professors, a state director of social studies instruction, a superintendent of schools, a high school principal and three high school teachers of history (one of whom was Bessie L. Pierce, who joined the history faculty at the University of Iowa the following year)" (1958, 100). He surmised that the group had few teachers because of a lack of perceived need by teachers for a national organization or because of a willingness to allow professors to do the organizational spade work. Since meetings were held at a time and place that most teachers could not go to because of teaching commitments, their participation was limited.
The effects of NCSS initiatives for new members are difficult to estimate, since membership statistics are irregular and incomplete until 1935, when a systematic annual report was initiated (Vanaria 1958, 106). Nevertheless, by 1923 there were NCSS members in all states and in Canada. In 1922, 60 percent of the members were from ten states, with 25 percent from New York and Pennsylvania. The distribution of the 790 members of NCSS in 1922 was as follows (Vanaria, 105):
North Central: 227
Far West: 58
Others (Canada): 16
Future expectations ran high. In May 1923 a column in The Historical Outlook projected optimistically "that NCSS should soon have 5000 members." In October 1923, the NCSS meetings held in July were reported as having had "more than 500 in attendance ... an excellent response" (National Council for the Social Studies 1923, 286). In 1924, at the time of the fourth annual meeting in Chicago, it was noted that NCSS had over one thousand members, though statistics for attendance at the meeting were not given. In December 1924, a column of The Historical Outlook reported that state organizations were beginning to transform their history teachers' groups into branches of NCSS, as New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Dallas, Texas, had already done. It was emphasized that NCSS was not trying to compete with local branches of history teachers, and that such conversions were locally initiated.
In The Historical Outlook in December 1925, Secretary Dawson made an unusually long report in which he traced the first five years of NCSS, and discussed the growth of membership. He reported that there were working organizations or sections of State Teachers Associations devoted to social studies in thirty-three states, nothing in fourteen (and apparently no report from one) [398-401]. Most of the officers were from high schools, but there was a smattering of college professors. Despite a national leadership of mostly college professors, the state and local groups were dominated by high school personnel.
The increase in membership continued for the rest of the decade. By 1929, membership had risen to 2,000, a peak that was unmatched for many years afterward as membership fell drastically during the Depression (Vanaria 1958, 105).
Building the Organization in the 1920s
The expansion of membership was accompanied by more extensive publications, meetings, and programs, as well as an evolution of organizational structure, and the development of NCSS relations with other educational organizations.
At the start, The Historical Outlook was the principal forum for reporting on NCSS activities, and discussing important issues. A year after the first NCSS Yearbook was included in its December issue, The Historical Outlook devoted its December 1923 issue to the Second Yearbook of NCSS, which was published in its entirety in the journal. Articles on practices, texts, the status of social studies in certain states and Dawson's report on NCSS progress constituted the Yearbook "chapters." In 1924, NCSS was also regularly represented in The Historical Outlook by Daniel Knowlton's regular column and J. Montgomery Gambrill's monthly book reviews.
The Historical Outlook became the official publication of NCSS in 1925, when its opening issue of the year listed both NCSS and AHA on the masthead. Starting the following year, NCSS provided news updates about its activities to the membership through a new column, "News of the National Council for the Social Studies," which ran in all eight issues of The Historical Outlook each year. The column, which was renamed "Recent Happenings in Social Studies" the following year, was prepared at first by an NCSS committee, but responsibility for its compilation was transferred to the NCSS editorial offices in 1935. Each month the column tried to inform NCSS members of recent completed research, such as dissertations and theses, useful journal articles, and other publications or materials of interest to the social studies teachers from the states and other sources. It also reported the work of other organizations, and the meetings of affiliated or allied unaffiliated groups.
Curriculum and teaching issues were of great importance throughout the 1920s. In December 1923, a report by J. Montgomery Gambrill on "Experimental Curriculum Making in Social Studies" appeared in The Historical Outlook as part of the Second Yearbook of NCSS. The report had four parts, each of which focused on one "experiment." These included social studies in the University High School of the University of Chicago, a unified Social Science Curriculum proposed by H. O. Rugg, a composite course for junior high school proposed by L. C. Marshall, and a project aimed at the scientific construction of a fact course in social studies for elementary grades (as opposed to a problems course) proposed by Carleton Washburne. Interestingly, despite the fact that Gambrill's research and report were funded by AHA, all of the above had already been described in greater detail in the Twenty-second Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education in 1923 (Rugg 1923).
The quality of the teaching of history was a major concern of both NCSS and AHA. Through an investigation known as the History Inquiry, first proposed at the AHA meeting of 1921 and formalized at the 1922 meeting, AHA sought "to ascertain the existing practice and tendencies of history teaching and social studies in the schools" (AHA 1924, 82). The work commenced in October 1923, with a mandate to report the findings by December 28, 1924 (during the annual meeting in Richmond). It was supported by a grant of $5,000 from the Bureau of Educational Research of Teachers College and undertaken by a committee composed of Henry Johnson, J. Montgomery Gambrill, Daniel C. Knowlton, Albert E. McKinley, R. M. Tryon, and G. F. Zook, with William E. Lingelbach serving as chair, and Edgar Dawson as director of the investigation. Despite the time allowed, a report was published in The Historical Outlook as early as June 1924, indicating that less than a year was spent on the work. The forty-one page, double-columned report had eight sections. The first five were background and summary features, the sixth a "cross section of present curricula," and the seventh a discussion of an experiment with a test of American history given to students in grades 11 or 12 in thirty-six schools in six states around the country. The last section was labeled "general impressions," consisting of twelve such impressions that had been agreed upon in January, barely three months after the committee commenced. Eleven had to do with specific course tendencies, and the twelfth noted, "The training of teachers for the social studies, separately or as a group, is clearly in sad need of attention" (The Historical Outlook 1924, 268).
In 1925, NCSS Secretary Dawson called for a better, more thorough survey than the recently completed History Inquiry. "There is a very general demand that the Council stimulate a more rapid approach to a formulation of objectives and of minimum essentials in the social studies" (The Historical Outlook 1925, 386). That would be on the docket for the forthcoming NCSS meeting in Cincinnati. In his report of 1925, Dawson also presented a draft of "Items for a Possible Platform" offered by the Committee on Standards of Teacher Training, chaired by Bessie Pierce. The teaching platform made ten points, the last of which was most interesting: "The teaching load for social studies in the high school should never exceed four periods a day" (Dawson 1925, 401).
The chair of the above-mentioned committee, Bessie Pierce, also served as Vice-President of the Council in 1925 and became President in 1926. This succession was not typical. Vanaria (1958) observed that early on, "No continuity or scheme seems to have guided the nomination and election of officers. Not until 1930 did the Vice-President succeed to the Presidency (with the exception of Pierce), thus establishing a precedent unbroken to the present" (128).
Apart from Pierce, the first woman to serve on the Board, NCSS had four women officers in the period 1921-37. They were Nellie Jackson, first female NCSS officer (Corresponding Secretary, 1923); Mary Carney (Corresponding Secretary, 1925-1927); Edna Stone, an Oakland, California, teacher who was elected Vice-President in 1927, and Ruth West (Vice-President, 1938, elected in November 1937).
Organizational Developments. The February 1925 issue of The Historical Outlook described two constitutional amendments to be voted on at the upcoming NCSS meeting in Cincinnati. One proposed that all actions taken at the annual meeting be printed in The Historical Outlook, while the second addressed social ethics, proposing (for the second year in a row) that it be a part of the content of social studies.
At the meeting both amendments were tabled, primarily because it was felt that not enough members were in attendance to make the vote a fair reflection of the overall membership (The Historical Outlook, 143). A resolution calling for standards for teaching social studies in high school, rather than just adherence to general standards, was overwhelmingly passed. Membership dues were reduced from $1 per year to 25 cents, but $2 more per year were required to receive The Historical Outlook.
Six committees were formed at the Cincinnati meeting in 1925. These were:
1: A committee on surveys and investigations,
2: A committee to address legislation dealing with social studies,
3: A committee to formulate standards for the teaching of social studies,
4: A membership and affiliation committee,
5: A committee on policies and plans, and
6: A finance committee.
The formation of these committees, which provided a framework for addressing key issues of concern to NCSS, marked an important stage in the Council's development.
Relations with AHA and NEA
Reflecting its close ties to AHA, from 1923 NCSS held a meeting at the annual AHA conference. While continuing its relationship with AHA, NCSS also expanded its educational reach during the 1920s by becoming a department of the National Education Association (NEA). A suggestion was made in 1925 that NCSS might consider holding formal July meetings at the NEA convention where more teachers could attend. Indeed, up to that time, it had been so difficult for all to attend the NCSS meetings that it had as yet been impossible for the Board of Directors to meet all together.
The July 1925 meeting of NCSS was held at the NEA meeting in Indianapolis with two thematic sessions on training social studies teachers and their work. At that meeting NCSS officially became a part of the NEA as its Department of Social Studies, and subsequent accounts of NCSS summer meetings were reported in the annual NEA Address and Proceedings under the Department of Social Studies.
Despite this affiliation, NCSS continued to hold meetings at the annual AHA conference, and the AHA Commission on the Social Studies, established in the late 1920s, attracted a great deal of interest among NCSS members. Chaired by A. C. Krey, and supported by a large grant from the Carnegie Foundation, the Commission on the Social Studies made a report that was a lively topic of debate and discussion when NCSS met during the AHA meeting held at Duke University in December 1929. It would continue to be a focus of discussion for at least the next five years. At the 1929 AHA meeting Krey announced that the Commission had met on its own in November in New York City and approved a testing program. The Commission's Advisory Committees, whose functions included objectives, tests, and public relations, were listed along with the names of members of those committees. These included Charles Beard, Boyd Bode, Harold Rugg and Krey on objectives; Howard Hill, Ernest Horn, Henry Johnson and Krey on tests; and Robert Lynd, Krey and Jesse Newlon on public relations. Seventeen volumes on different aspects of social studies education prepared under the Commission's direction and sponsorship were published by AHA in the 1930s.
As NCSS grew concerned with standards for social studies and social studies teachers, states and large cities like Los Angeles reflected that concern and developed their own standards. This was reported in a number of the "Recent Happenings ..." columns during 1929.
The Early 1930s: Challenges and Developments
Like other institutions, NCSS was adversely affected by the Depression. After a membership peak of two thousand in 1929, a steep decline ensued. Membership bottomed out at seven hundred in 1934 (Vanaria 1958, 105).
Despite the discouraging circumstances, the 1930-37 period was a very important one for NCSS's institutional development. The scope of its activities expanded, it inaugurated a series of annual meetings separate from those of other educational associations, and, in 1937, it launched its own journal, Social Education.
During the depression, regional and state groups seemed to grow, while NCSS declined, a reflection of ever-tightening travel funds. Interestingly, the bulletins of NCSS, begun in 1927, made no reference or allusion to the severe economic and social conditions of the Great Depression. Bulletin topics included Textbooks, Historical Fiction, Tests, Reading in Social Studies, Methods of Teaching and Pamphlets on Public Affairs. Four of these first eight bulletins were edited by women (with one co-edited).
Judging by the "Recent Happenings in Social Studies" column in The Historical Outlook, the Commission on the Social Studies continued to be the primary topic of professional interest to the social studies community, but other interests were emerging. Topics covered included broadcasting in the school, the League of Nations, the activities of colleagues in Great Britain, and civic education by radio.
In 1931, for the first time NCSS published a yearbook separate from the contents of The Historical Outlook. The theme of the volume was Some Aspects of the Social Sciences in the Schools. During the 1930s, other annual volumes followed on various challenges facing social studies teaching. Publications during this period that were also considered important included two books published in 1932 by the Commission on the Social Studies on the teaching of social studies: Charles Beard's A Charter for the Social Studies in the Schools, and Henry Johnson's An Introduction to the History of the Social Sciences in Schools. Another noted publication of 1932 by an NCSS member was Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order? by George S. Counts. Articles and comments in The Historical Outlook showed that this publication and Counts's thoughts were reflective of the dominant thinking among NCSS leaders.
Publications news in the year 1933 was also dominated by the Commission on the Social Studies. In The Historical Outlook in April, A. C. Krey listed its fifteen reports (subsequently seventeen) in order of publication. Also in that April issue was an announcement of the third NCSS Yearbook, Supervision in the Social Studies, edited by W. G. Kimmel.
In 1934 there was a considerable change in educational management of NCSS and its publication, The Historical Outlook, which was renamed The Social Studies at the beginning of the year. In the January 1934 edition of The Social Studies, it was explained that a new publication agreement had been worked out between AHA, NCSS and McKinley Publishing (the publisher of The Historical Outlook). Under this agreement, AHA, with the advice and cooperation of NCSS, would assume the financing and editorial management of the journal, which would now be called The Social Studies. AHA would use its surplus funds from the Commission on the Social Studies to defray editorial expenses. New editorial board representatives would come from the American Economic Association, the American Political Science Association and the American Sociological Society.
Vanaria (1958, 164) notes that McKinley's deal with AHA had been initiated without consulting the officers of the Council and he cites a letter from Pierce to Dawson of May 3, 1933 to this effect. That led to much grumbling among the officers about a lost opportunity to take over the journal or to start a new one.
At that time, however, any new expenditures were impossible for the Council to consider. In 1932-33 NCSS had an income of $1544 and expenses of $1183. A major reason for this shortage of funds was that the Farmers Loan and Trust of Iowa City closed in January 1932, tying up Council funds of $1365.62. In December the bank paid $136.56, or 10 percent of the deposit (Vanaria 1958, 165).
The Social Studies was soon superseded as the principal NCSS periodical as the result of a series of changes in 1936 and 1937. Erling Hunt became editor of The Social Studies, effective August 15, 1936, a change announced in the October 1936 issue. In November, Hunt explained the changes. W.G. Kimmel, who had begun as associate editor of The Social Studies in 1934, and had become editor upon Albert McKinley's death in February 1935, resigned in the summer of 1936 in order to become associate editor of John C. Winston Company in Philadelphia. This also necessitated Kimmel's resignation as associate in Civic Education at Teachers College, Columbia. To assist Hunt, Katherine Crane, who held a recent Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago and was a former secondary school teacher, was named associate editor.
The December 1936 issue of The Social Studies was the last to be published under the aegis of NCSS and AHA. Beginning in January 1937, the official journal of NCSS was Social Education, which had editorial offices at Columbia under the editorial supervision of AHA. Hunt became editor and chair of the Executive Board. Crane shifted with Hunt to Social Education as Associate Editor. AHA still needed Commission royalties to publish Social Education, and the headquarters of the secretary-treasurer of NCSS continued to be at Harvard where it had been since January 1936, and where Howard Wilson was ensconced. Wilson's term ended in 1939, but the headquarters of NCSS remained at Harvard with Wilbur Murra, a young graduate student of Krey and Edgar B. Wesley, serving as the Council's first executive secretary. In 1940 NCSS moved to the NEA Building in Washington, and a much tighter NCSS-NEA relationship was forged.
NCSS meetings continued to be held in different parts of the country, and to attract relatively large turnouts. Even in bad times in 1931, two to three hundred people attended the NCSS luncheon at the NCSS summer meeting in Los Angeles. Two years later, in Chicago, the October issue of The Historical Outlook reported that "Three hundred were at sessions with several hundred others turned away because of lack of space in rooms," at the Stevens Hotel (now the Conrad Hilton) on Michigan Avenue.
The 1934 meetings were held in Cleveland in February (with three hundred attendees) and in Washington in both July and December. Despite the difficult economic times, some interesting seminars were being offered in the "Recent Happenings . . ." column of The Social Studies. A Cuban seminar in Havana was noted in January; others in Mexico and Moscow were noted in April.
Once again, Commission on the Social Studies activities were highlighted at the meetings, with papers addressing the varying reports on the social studies. At all three NCSS meetings, the reports were on the agenda with educator responses in July, and reviews of the reports and meetings on their topics in December.
In December 1934, at the NCSS meetings in Washington, a major new development took place. It was proposed that "NCSS hold a two-day session on the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving." Such a meeting would be similar to the regular meetings of the National Council of English Teachers ("Recent Happenings ...," February 1935, 120). The idea was popular, and the following year, NCSS held its first "stand-alone" meeting in New York on November 29 and 30. So successful was this deemed by the NCSS leadership that the practice was repeated in Detroit in 1936, and in St. Louis the following year, establishing a tradition of November meetings that continues today.
In the January 1936 issue of The Social Studies, Wilbur Murra reviewed the first independent meeting of NCSS and found it wonderful. "(T)he richness of simultaneous programs presented problems of choice, and not a few members tried to hear parts of different programs which were in progress at the same time" (Murra 1936a, 4). Murra also mentioned the delegates who attended from cooperating organizations. "It is probable that the custom of designating delegates will be developed more fully and much of the business of the Council will be handled by them in the future"(4). A most insightful, accurate comment, to be sure.
Social studies curriculum issues were a continuing major concern of the Council in the 1930s. Apart from its contribution through the publications mentioned above, the Council was active in urging appropriate attention to social studies by NEA. In 1934, the Department of Superintendence of NEA proposed to publish its Fourteenth Yearbook in 1936 on The Social Studies Curriculum, but drew up a list of prospective authors that had no specialist in either social studies or social sciences ("Recent Happenings ...," April 1934, 186). Some literary lobbying by NCSS apparently helped to improve the list, because when the Fourteenth Yearbook was published, it included chapters by Charles Beard, George Counts and Howard Wilson, all prominent social studies figures. Murra (1936b), in a favorable review of this yearbook, compared it to the AHA Commission report, highlighting similarities and differences between the two. He noted that "the practical usefulness of the yearbook, with its material that can be applied to immediate problems of curriculum construction, will fill a need that the Report of the American Historical Association Commission failed to provide for" (28). Murra described the yearbook as "the most comprehensive and most usable treatment of the subject available"(10).
New challenges loomed for NCSS as a result of the political developments of the 1930s. From 1935 to 1937 (and beyond) one of the biggest issues confronting NCSS and social studies educators was loyalty oaths. New York State seemed to have the most legislation addressing that topic and the most resistance among social studies educators. Columns in the April and May issues of The Social Studies addressed this issue very seriously, and the concern grew by October. Loyalty oaths, "red restrictions," the American Legion, fascism, student oaths, censorship and student spies were also discussed the following year in the January, February, March, April, May and October issues of The Social Studies. At an NCSS meeting in Portland in July 1936, two American Legion officers announced that the Legion now opposed loyalty oaths as un-American, though the Legion continued to closely monitor school programs (Gellerman 1938).
It was clear by 1937 that an educational association like NCSS could not view the world from an ivory tower. In the next stage of its development, the challenges of a changing world for the social studies became much more pronounced. By that time, however, NCSS had "settled into" a more independent stature, and was poised for growth and more active work in schools.
Assessing the Period, 1921 - 1937
National Council for the Social Studies began as a service organization that would both bridge the gap between social scientists and secondary school teachers and re-examine knowledge within the disciplines in light of potential use in schools. Founded by five practitioner-researchers, the organization was swiftly taken over by two hard-working entrepreneurs. Neither researchers nor scholars, McKinley and Dawson seemed to possess little vision other than an organizing spirit, and NCSS emerged directionless from its birth.
Despite its lack of intellectual purpose, NCSS struck a responsive chord among many in higher education who had a deep interest in social sciences in schools. At a time when NEA, AHA, APSA, AEA and ASS had "stakes" in the school curriculum "game," the creation of NCSS allowed for all parties to meet on a neutral field. NCSS was swiftly accepted as an objective broker of the issues of social science teaching in schools.
The choice of the term "social studies," as noted previously, was seen as reflective of this inclusive, neutral stance by the organization's founders, but early on was perceived as a "sticking point" by some parties. By the late 1920s AHA softened its stance against the term, probably because it saw itself losing this battle, trivial though it might be.
With the concession by AHA and its subsequent naming of a Commission on the Social Studies in 1928 to continue the work of the Committee on History Teaching in the Schools, the term "social studies" became not only accepted, but preferred. The Commission's work was led by a number of prominent historians like Guy Stanton Ford and A. C. Krey of Minnesota, Carlton Hayes and Charles Beard of Columbia, and other social scientists like geographer Isaiah Bowman and political scientist Charles Merriam. It lent credence to social studies, and by associative extension to NCSS.
NCSS allied itself early with both NEA and AHA. NCSS was never a formal part of AHA, but the latter provided financial and publishing support for many years, even though from 1925 to 1969, NCSS was officially a part of NEA as its Department of Social Studies. NCSS was neither fish nor fowl, and this had its advantages and disadvantages.
For the first ten years of its organizational life, NCSS campaigned for members to give real life to the association. By the late 1920s, NCSS seemed to be catching on with teachers, despite the fact that the group was largely run by a small group of higher educators and an assortment of school people.
Intellectually the group was stunted early on, but in the 1930s attracted educators and social scientists with more pronounced academic views and involvement. The organization was predominantly a voice of progressivism and liberal political views. The more intellectual educators and social scientists came to NCSS with a hope for the improvement of schools and society. Unfortunately, their involvement seemed to provoke indifference rather than organizational actions. "They simply weren't listened to, and they simply stopped their involvement with NCSS" (Engle 1994).
NCSS had a few women officers in its early years and active involvement by women on both Committees and Yearbook chapters. The journal The Historical Outlook, and later The Social Studies, also was an obvious outlet for publication by women in social science disciplines and in school positions.
Despite the best of intentions NCSS struggled for acceptance, membership, intellectual respect and a political voice in the debates on schools in the period 1921 to 1937. It would seem that in the nearly sixty years since, little has changed. It is a disheartening observation, but one grounded in historical and contemporary realities.
American Historical Association Annual Report. Washington, D.C.: AHA, 1921.
American Historical Association Annual Report. Washington, D.C.: AHA, 1922.
American Historical Association Annual Report. Washington, D.C.: AHA, 1923.
"A National Council for the Social Studies." The Historical Outlook 12, no. 4 (1921): 144.
Boozer, H. R. "The AHA and the Schools." Ph.D. diss., Washington University, St. Louis, 1960.
Correia, S. "For Their Own Good: An Historical Analysis of the Educational Thought of Thomas Jesse Jones." Ph.D. diss., The Pennsylvania State University, 1993.
Dawson, E. "An Organization to Promote the Social Studies." The Historical Outlook 12, no. 8 (1921): 300-31.
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-----. "The National Council Is Growing." The Historical Outlook 13, no. 3 (1922b): 107.
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Murry R. Nelson is Professor of Education and American Studies and Coordinator of Graduate Programs in Curriculum and Instruction at the Pennsylvania State University.