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Nerdfest 2015 Day Three: Advocating for the Social Studies

ks capitol

It’s late in the day on Saturday and it’s a battle between Bourbon Street and conference sessions. Right now, it’s looking like Bourbon Street is winning. Not a lot of people hanging around. So . . . I’m patting myself on the back just a little bit. Especially since I’m in a session focusing on the very important but potentially not-very exciting topic of social studies advocacy.

I want to learn more about how to do this. I think we all need to learn more about this. Things seem to be swinging back to a place where social studies gets a place on the podium. But there is still lots of work we can do to help parents, the media, and politicians better understand our mission and goals.

The questions I have are pretty simple:

  • What works best at the local and state levels?
  • What resources are available?

And we’ve got an esteemed panel this afternoon to help me figure out the answers:

  • Michelle Herczog, Los Angeles County Office of Education
  • Catriona Macdonald, Linchpin Strategies
  • Christopher Caltabiano, Council for Economic Education
  • Brenda Barr, National Geographic Society
  • Lee White, National Coalition for History
  • Ted McConnell, Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools

So it’s a lock that I’ll walk away smarter.

Cat starts off with some good news. The advocacy work that NCSS, other social studies groups, and her lobbying efforts seem to be paying off. The upcoming reauthorization of the ESEA looks like it might include some funding for social studies professional development and student learning.

It’s also good to see the four different social studies disciplines working together to support lobbying efforts. The different folks shared what they’ve been doing to move the process along.

A basic place to start is at the NCSS Advocacy Toolkit. As we continue to find ways to connect our message with others, students will benefit, schools will have greater support, and social studies teachers and other educators will find their job more rewarding.

There’s no group better suited to be advocates for the social studies profession nor better equipped to communicate the importance of social studies education than social studies professionals.

The greatest resources in creating greater awareness of the importance of social studies education are our members and our councils. We have the best understanding of social studies; We are in every corner of the United States, and we can reach out to people throughout the country.

In this Toolkit, NCSS outlines their objectives for an advocacy campaign and numerous sample materials you can use to promote social studies education. An awareness campaign, such as this one, works best with a grassroots approach. Using this kit, you can influence key audiences locally. A partnership between the national office and local affiliates is the most effective way to deliver our important message.

There are two ways you can help communicate for social studies:

  1. Become involved in this campaign; and
  2. Practice solid public relations each day of your professional career.

Throughout the kit, you will find specific ideas on how you can become involved. All have proven effective in schools around the country.

Working together, we can create greater awareness of the important work social studies educators do every day.

Other ideas from the panel:

  • They passed out a document with a ton of great suggestions. (Unfortunately it’s not online so the photos below is all I’ve got. Good luck.)

practice what we teach1

practice what we teach2

  • Go to the History Coalition site and urge your representative to join the Congressional History Caucus using the resources you can find on their front page.
  • Make sure that you get your name on the email alert list from NCSS and other discipline specific groups so that you can respond when help is needed.
  • Remember that the people in the representative’s office are doing their jobs when they answer our phone calls, texts, emails, and letters.
  • If you do nothing else, continue to champion the C3 Framework.
  • Communicate and coordinate with other discipline specific groups within your states. “Dont’ circle the wagons and shoot inside.” We need to work together and find ways to integrate content.
  • “We’ve got to stop squabbling over the scraps” with each other across discipline specific groups and to find ways to connect national groups with state groups.
  • It’s not always the social studies people in state councils or teachers that may be the best people to influence local and state representatives. Getting parents and business people to make these contacts can sometimes have a bigger impact.

Perhaps the biggest thing we need to realize is that we have to start somewhere, doing something. Because what you do is important. Because we need to keep the end in mind – better social studies instruction makes better citizens. Better citizens make a better United States.

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