At the fall board meeting, the NCSS Board of Directors approved some new and exciting changes to the Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society starting in the fall of 2019. Among the changes will be the formation of a junior level of the society and the establishment of a scholarship program for outstanding high school seniors. As the Rho Kappa Advisory Board works to develop the guidelines for these new programs, I offer the following as to why you should give your students a voice and charter a Rho Kappa Chapter in your school.
Rho Kappa Wants YOU!
The Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society was established by the National Council for the Social Studies in December, 2011 and is the only national organization that recognizes high school juniors and seniors for excellence in the field of social studies. Rho Kappa was originally established by the Florida Council for the Social Studies in 2000 for the State of Florida. Through its sponsorship of Rho Kappa, NCSS hopes to encourage an interest in, understanding or, and appreciation for the social studies in our students. It currently has chapters in 41 states and the District of Columbia, and active chapters in China, Germany and Singapore.
Why Rho Kappa?!
Globalization and rapid technological advancements in the 21st century are profoundly impacting our democracy and conceptualization of what it means to be a productive member of society. As schools reorient their goals and procedures for preparing students for success in college and career in the changing landscape, it is vital to the health and future of our democracy that our schools also prepare students for a lifetime of knowledgeable, engaged, and active citizenship. Our ability to create and sustain a robust democracy depends on our ability to achieve this goal.
Students who leave high school with civic competencies achieved through high quality civic learning practices are equipped to address complex challenges, work and study with diverse colleagues, and creatively solve problems that do not have easy solutions. They are also more likely to vote and discuss politics at home, to volunteer and work on community issues, and are more confident in their ability to speak publicly and communicate with their elected representatives. Schools with civic learning programs are more likely to be safe, inclusive, and respectful, and in addition, experience fewer high school dropouts. For these reasons and many more, it is critically important to revitalize civic learning as a core purpose of education for all students at all grade levels.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
So how does Rho Kappa fit into this criteria?!
Derived from the words “resh” meaning “head” and “kaf” meaning “palm of the hand,” Rho Kappa represents the concept of knowledge through service. While recognizing those students who have achieved academic excellence in history, successful Rho Kappa chapters provide a venue for students to perform meaningful work for their school and the surrounding community.
So what are chapters doing?!
They are inviting former members of the military, Holocaust survivors, and government officials of all levels to come in and speak to name a few. They organize commemorations of historical events and travel to historical locations. They are donating supplies to shelters, organizing canned good drives, collecting eyeglasses for third world nations, forming Relay for Life teams and holding candlelight vigils for homeless youths. They send care packages to their alumni serving overseas in a program dubbed “Operation Aggies Care." They tutor students at all levels K–12, participate in oral history projects such as the Civil Voices Memory Bank project, and numerous chapters have had members trained to register eligible high school students to vote. These young people are active, productive citizens in their respective communities and are learning lessons that will carry them throughout their adult lives.
So what can you do?!
John Quincy Adams is quoted as having said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Be that leader: Be the action for introducing policies and civic practices to schools that needs to occur at the local, state, and national levels. Urge policymakers, educators, families, and communities to adopt a vision and plan for providing students with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for effective civic life. Start a Rho Kappa Chapter in your school, and inspire others in your district to start a chapter. Share Rho Kappa materials at your state conference and encourage others to start a Rho Kappa Chapter. Our young people—our future leaders—depend on us.