creating effective citizens

MEW is providing a continuing report on what two moms learned at the National Council for the Social Studies Conference in November 2013.  The conference was primarily for teachers and administrators to learn about curriculum and teaching tools aligned to the Common Core standards.  These two moms wanted to learn what their children could be learning in history/social studies that are aligned to the ELA standards.  They want other parents to be aware of the curriculum that may be used in their schools.

Yesterday’s report of Faith, one of the moms attending the conference can be found here.

Here is the account of the second mom, Hope, on what she saw and learned at the NCSS conference:


I have had some time to contemplate what I experienced as I attended the National Council for the Social Studies Conference in St. Louis a few weeks ago (November 22-24).   I am a bit of a skeptic.  It takes some pretty good convincing for me to be a proponent of something, so with the Common Core buzz, I wanted to see for myself what was being taught.  Having my children in mind, I was anxious to attend, to see for myself what content and procedures were being promoted in the area of teaching children.  I  expected some controversial topics mingled with Social Studies in the context of how I knew it when I was growing up.  I was naive.  It was unrecognizable.


Abraham Lincoln is given credit for saying that, “The philosophy taught in the classroom in this generation will become the philosophy of the government in the next generation.”  I believe that this is a true statement.  Isn’t that the idea of standards, curriculum etc.?  The goal of standards is to achieve a certain outcome.   It certainly can be said for the Conference of the Social Studies, with C3 “College, Career, and Civic Life as framework for the Social Studies State Standards in St. Louis (as it) takes center stage being the basis on the conference itself.”

Civics; that’s excellent right?  We all want our children to be great citizens and have them understand their role in our republic.  The question I soon asked myself is, “Who is defining civics? In what context are they teaching it?”  I think I came up with the answer to that question.  Look at the titles of the sessions I attended while at the NCSS Conference and see if you discover the new context of civics in America:

  • Beyond Biography:  Rethinking Women’s History Month to Inspire Civic Action;
  • Regrounding” Social Justice through the Rule of Law;
  • Affirmative Action-Reverse Discriminiation, Social Justice, or Equal Protection;
  • The Psychology of Genocide;
  • Gateway to Diplomacy: Middle School Model UN Building Negotiation and Compromise!;  Children Have the Right to Say! Literacy, Justice and Civic Potential;
  • Missing Muslim Heroes;
  • Inspiring Stories You Haven’t Heard;  Sustainability, Social Justice and Media Literacy;
  • Stop Human Trafficking.  Start in Your School;
  • To Repair the World:  The Importance of International Humanitarian Law;
  • Sustainable Civic Engagement:  Advocacy and Social Studies; Protest Songs:   Promoting Peace and Justice through Popular Music (teacher was a no-show);
  • How the Nazis Convinced Germans to Fall in Line Willingly;
  • Teaching Controversy:  Bringing the Fight to the History Classroom;
  • Foster the People! Civic Health Data, Research, and Community Engagement;
  • Raising Children to be Global Citizens Takes a Village;
  • Twittering at the Gates:  Using Social Media for Social Justice;
  • The Memory Hole: The U.S. History Curriculum Under Siege”  (sounds quite moderate, but was one of the most surprising of all the sessions.)

The most astounding thing of all was that none of the “social Justice” classes were taught in the context of a republic or a democracy, but more on impulse, frustration and anger.  Action is what is wanted, not critical thinking.  Children are taught to respond on impulse.

At the end of Saturday’s sessions, I was reminded of the quote by Benjamin Franklin that talked about the chair that George Washington sat during the months of deliberation as they worked to ratify the U.S. Constitution.  George Washington used this chair for nearly three months of the Federal Convention’s continuous sessions.  James Madison reported Benjamin Franklin saying, “I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I… know that it is a rising…sun.”

For me, I feel if I’m in a similar place, unsure of whether the sun is rising or setting on our nation and its future.  I believe it hinges on us as a people.  I believe that it is rising if we recognize what is happening in front of us and we again take the responsibility to govern ourselves.  We trust to the point that I believe we are in denial to a large degree.  We don’t have the historical knowledge to realize what have is slipping and that we are not above the rest of the world.  What has happened to others, can and will happen to us.  Those who are formulating and forwarding these types of agendas are passionate about their desire.  The success they are experiencing is empowering to them, yet we deny that it’s happening.  We are asleep, and they are wide awake!

The question I have now is, does any of this matter?  Does it matter that this is a National Conference and that this is what they are encouraging?  Does the education of our children matter more than shopping at the mall?  More than fulfilling our own desires?  Do We the People believe in We the People? Or are we content to ride the waves of those all too willing to steer our destiny so long as they don’t disturb us from our slumber?


Parents and school boards may want to have more information on the private organization NCSS and its goals and visions.  Excerpts from the NCSS Strategic Plan:


Envisioned future. The ‘Four Planning Horizons’ framework consists of crafting a comprehensive strategic direction based on the balance between what doesn’t change–the timeless principles of the association’s core purpose and core values–and what the association seeks to become within a 10- to 30-year horizon–what would be possible beyond the restraints of the current environment. The 10- to 30-year horizon is characterized by the articulation of an envisioned future–a Big, Audacious Goal (BAG)–and a set of vivid descriptions–what it will be like to achieve the goal.

The NCSS strategic long-range plan describes a desired vision and what will be essential in achieving that vision. It is grounded in core ideology and driven by an envisioned future for NCSS members, stakeholders, and the association.

This planning model and the original strategic plan document was approved by the Board of Directors for approval in November 2001 and consists of: Core Ideology, Core Purpose and Core Values; Envisioned Future, Big, Audacious Goal (BAG) and Vivid Descriptions; Assumptions about the Relevant Future; and Goal Statements and Objectives. The 3- to 5-year strategic plan document (i.e., five goals and strategic objectives) will form the basis for the annual work plan for NCSS, including establishing priorities for staff and volunteer work groups. This document contains the goal statements and a set of objectives for each of the goal statements.

NCSS Core Values

The Core Values are essential and enduring tenets of the organization, a set of timeless guiding principles that reflect what the organization stands for and are inherent in all decision making.

In NCSS we value:

  • Democratic principles and values: the very foundation of social studies
  • Diversity and Inclusiveness: The organization affirms cultural diversity, combats discrimination, and recognizes multiple perspectives
  • Global Interconnectedness: an understanding of the relationships between and among peoples and countries around the globe
  • Intellectual excellence: rigorous thought and inquiry
  • Open and reasoned civil discourse: an environment conducive to airing a variety of opinions and views in a respectful manner
  • Pursuit of Knowledge: the shared desire for continuous learning and improvement
  • Altruism and Commitment: compassionate, ethical, collaborative, and service-oriented citizens

NCSS BIG, Audacious Goal (BAG)

A Big, Audacious Goal (BAG) should be clear and compelling, bold and exciting, fall outside the current comfort zone, and be doable with heroic effort and marshaling of resources. It could take 10-30 years to accomplish.

  • Be the catalyst for creating engaged, effective citizens

Vivid Descriptions

Vivid Descriptions paint a picture and describe what the world will be like for a variety of stakeholders ‘ educators, students, citizens, etc., when the Big, Audacious Goal is achieved.

  • Social Studies is a recognized and well respected core subject.
  • Public policymakers look to NCSS for developing and maintaining a well-informed and engaged citizenry
  • Social Studies teachers are guided by research, standards and principles of powerful teaching and learning when preparing to teach effectively.
  • NCSS is the umbrella organization for all areas of social studies, and the disciplines that constitute social studies are respectful of each other and have joined forces to promote a united front under NCSS leadership.
  • Social Studies education across the United States is based on NCSS standards and scope and sequence.
  • Business and the community appreciate teachers and recognize their connection to advancing student achievement and prepare students for the work environment.
  • The United States enjoys a vibrant democracy as demonstrated by active citizen participation in the political process.
  • Every student has a qualified social studies teacher.
  • All teachers of social studies, regardless of subject matter or grade level, are NCSS members.
  • Social Studies educators have equal access to all the resources they need.
  • Teachers are role models for civic participation.
  • The international educational community looks to NCSS for research, knowledge and resources on teaching and learning.

Social Values/Politics

  • There will be persistent tension between individual rights and the common good.
  • There will likely be greater moral ambiguity as people in public schools embrace increasingly diverse perspectives and values.
  • Social opportunities and expectations will be different for subsequent generations that grow up on computers, technology, etc.
  • There will be a broad-based societal desire to ensure that every student will be fully educated.
  • The notion of ‘choice’ will accelerate, and more students will be able to attend any public school of their choice.

Emerging New Realities

  • There has been a surge in patriotism across the United States post 9/11/01, and we will likely see a more aware, interested, and engaged citizenry.
  • U.S. school districts will increasingly need to deal with policies and guidelines for dealing with a host of ‘What if’.?? scenarios around protecting our homeland from terrorism.
  • There will be greater interest in inter-disciplinary teaching; social studies teachers will be sought out for their particular knowledge, information, and materials relevant to world events.
  • There will be a shift from national to global interest in a broad array of social studies related areas such as geography, political science, world events, economics, religion, and human rights practices.
  • There will be increased interest in skills such as critical thinking as a myriad of questions are pondered relevant to world events.
  • Social studies experts will be sought as media information sources and resources.
  • Issues such as tolerance, privacy, security, diversity, the common good, and media accuracy will be prominent in national news debates, classrooms, and public gatherings.
  • There will likely be a greater interest in 20th century history and lessons learned from previous wars that could be pertinent to the current situation.


There was a series of mega or critical issues identified in the strategic thinking sessions which NCSS leadership will need to further discuss and around which decisions may need to be made that will likely impact the strategic direction of the organization.

  • Which term–social studies or social science–most accurately reflects the inclusiveness of the disciplines and can best be marketed to internal and external constituencies?
  • Will social studies survive as a distinct school subject or be replaced by history and individual social sciences?
  • How can NCSS identify the un- and under-represented constituent groups such as elementary and middle school teachers, supervisors, teachers of color, urban and rural educators, etc. and make them feel part of NCSS and offer things that these particular constituent groups value, want, and need?
  • The terms citizenship and democracy are used synonymously in the United States, but this is not necessarily the case worldwide. What does this mean to the influx of immigrants, as well as new generations that may not have a respect for, or propensity to support, democracy?
  • Citizenship Education’how much of it is going on’ It may be desirable to benchmark and monitor what is going on at various grade levels in a variety of educational settings.
  • Who’ is the real consumer of education’ Is the goal of education to provide good employees or to be good world citizens’ Can these both be achieved rather than being mutually exclusive’
  • The rise of the multi-national corporation has impacted education, and it has yet to be determined what opportunities this presents for social studies education.
  • Will NCSS seek to create engaged and effective citizens worldwide and adopt a more global perspective or retain a national U.S. focus? What is a common, universal definition of social studies citizenship education that can be embraced by multi-cultural constituencies’ Social Studies has been described as ‘an integrated study of the Social Sciences and humanities to promote civic competency.’ What does it really mean to be a ‘good citizen’? In a sense, aren’t all disciplines related to citizenship education’ What is the role of social studies in addressing the human condition’
  • Strategic alliances will continually be important in the future. With which groups, organizations, and constituencies should NCSS seek or bolster alliances?
  • With the emphasis on testing for literacy and numeracy at the elementary school level, social studies has to some degree been marginalized at this level. Elementary school teachers often feel that they ‘also teach social studies’ in addition to a variety of other subjects and may need a different way to interact with NCSS that works for their needs.
  • Will there be an increased or diminished need in the future for an ‘organized workforce” What will be the future role of unions’
  • Educators have a need to feel ‘valued’ for their contributions to society. How do you ensure that social studies educators are valued for their unique contributions to an educated and engaged citizenry?
  • What impact will the shortage of teachers and the increased hiring of non-certified social studies teachers have on NCSS?
  • How will the House of Delegates and state organizations play a role in the governance of this organization’ How can we enhance the responsibilities and function of operational committees’
  • What research is needed to move social studies education forward’ How can the effectiveness of social studies be assessed’


As Hope wrote in her account, Those who are formulating and forwarding these types of agendas are passionate about their desire. You bet they are.  Here you have a blueprint of a private 501 (c)(3) Non-Governmental Organization’s (NGO) desire and plan.  Take some time to read the NCSS entire report.  This blueprint is being aligned to Common Core ELA standards by curriculum directors in public schools.  Parents can’t be placated by state legislators such as Missouri Representative Steve Cookson (Chairman of the Education Committee) insisting that Common Core is nothing to worry about since schools can still pick their own curriculum.  The curriculum must align to the assessments.  If the assessments are aligned to Issues such as tolerance, privacy, security, diversity, the common good, and media accuracy, then why would schools choose curriculum about historical figures such as Washington, Madison and Lincoln?

Follow the moms in upcoming blogs as they detail more about what they discovered in this conference.  Parents and organizations opposed to Common Core standards need to establish their OWN “Big Audacious Goal”.  We’ll just adopt and adapt that title and description from the NCSS statement.  Think about what YOU as a parent and taxpayer want for a BAG for your local school district:

A Big, Audacious Goal (BAG) should be clear and compelling, bold and exciting, fall outside the current comfort zone, and be doable with heroic effort and marshaling of resources. It could take 10-30 years to accomplish.









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