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Learn the Basics

Learn the Basics: Understanding Advocacy

Our goal is to create awareness of the fact that social studies teaches students to be effective citizens.

To reach our goal, members must actively work to communicate this message:

Today's Social Studies… Creating Effective Citizens

Today's Social Studies

Too many people equate social studies to what they remember from their school days—no matter how long it has been since they were in school. We need to communicate that social studies is changing to meet the challenges of today's world. It is not enough for students to memorize dates or locations on a map. Today's social studies provides students with the knowledge, critical thinking skills and experiences that will allow them to grow into effective citizens.


NCSS defines social studies as "the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence." That definition should be the foundation for this campaign.

It's essential that everyone involved in this advocacy effort adapts this view of social studies to their message. Because public policy issues—such as health insurance, immigration, the global economy, and foreign policy—are multidisciplinary in nature, understanding these issues and developing solutions to them require an effective multidisciplinary preK-12 education in social studies.

Creating Effective Citizens

Recently, there has been much attention given to the importance of some other subjects, including mathematics, science and reading. Many policymakers have forgotten the importance of a social studies education. Social Studies prepares people to take their place as effective, participating members of our democracy. That's the message we need to deliver: social studies creates effective citizens.

Whether it is in parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school nights, speeches to civic groups, or talks with other educators, use this theme frequently in your communications. A key element in any advocacy effort is delivering the central message over and over again.

Lightbulb icon Develop a "business card" to distribute to parents at the start of the school year. Head the card with the theme, Today's Social Studies… Creating Effective Citizens. Then include ways parents can support their children's social studies education and/or ways to contact you. If you have a classroom website, you can also include the theme there.

National/Affiliated Council/Member Partnership

There are many people we are trying to reach with our message— at the national, state and local levels. And while NCSS does not have the treasury to purchase full-page ads in the daily newspaper in every state capital each month, we do have a wonderful resource—25,000 members. To succeed, we must impact attitudes at all three levels.

National Office

The national office will assume the major responsibility in working with other national education associations and governmental groups. The national office will provide materials, such as this Tool Kit, that members will be able to easily adapt and use locally. Other information will be shared on the NCSS web site and through publications.

Affiliated Councils

Local, state, and regional councils can implement advocacy efforts to impact local legislators, news media, school board members, central office administrators, parents, students and others through their members.

Lightbulb icon Councils could run a short column in each issue of their member newsletters explaining why they should become advocates for their profession and how to do so.


Members can reach their local legislators, news media, school board members, central office administrators, parents, students, and others. If each of our 25,000 members will take just five minutes a month or accomplish one major PR activity a year in support of this social studies education, think of the effect that could have.


One key to successful public relations is to focus on delivering your message to the most important audiences. NCSS members are essential to delivering our social studies advocacy message to others. Therefore, in order to be most effective, NCSS will focus its efforts on its members, as well as local, state, and federal policy makers, and the news media.

Lightbulb icon Find another social studies educator, who may or may not be an NCSS member, and discuss this public relations advocacy effort. Urge that person to become involved. He or she may also see the value of NCSS membership. Share your public relations advocacy effort through your council's newsletter.

How Long?

Advocacy and public relations must be viewed as an ongoing project. In fact, NCSS members should see "promoting the importance of social studies education" as a career-long professional commitment.

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