Who Is He? and What Is He Doing Now? A Saga of Social Studies Education in California

Article excerpt

The 1960s seem such a long time ago compared to the patriotic and "war on terror" temper of today, yet issues in California social studies and to some extent, California education then bear some resemblance to the concerns of today.

The California Council for the Social Studies was then a young organization compared with today. It had grown from the SCSSA (Southern California Social Science Association) into a statewide organization with many of the same local councils. Yet CCSS was still a small organization compared to the vast number of teachers of social studies in the State, and it had little effect on social studies education in California

With regard to education in California in the 1960s, the University of California at Berkeley was reeling from student demonstrations. The Hippie movement was in full swing. However, the effects of that movement would not reach down to the elementary and secondary schools until later. Social studies frameworks came and went in regular succession with modest changes. The State Department of Education laid out the curriculum and provided textbooks for K-- 8, but the real power and money resided with the local districts. There, it was business as usual. However, all that was about to change.

Our young teacher, the subject of this article, had recently graduated from Utah State University and was teaching United States History, World History, and American Government in a local high school. He had married, started a family, and bought his first house. Fortuitous circumstances led to a year's leave of absence in 1967-68 to participate in a yearlong NDEA Fellowship program. This Masters Degree program introduced him to the "New Social Studies" of the 1960s. Of course, he was active in his school programs and had a part in social studies professional organizations, including CCSS. But the end of the 1960s would begin professional changes.

In 1970 the Junior Chamber of Commerce named him the Outstanding Young Educator. That same year he left the classroom to become Program Specialist, K-12 Social Studies, for his school district. With his active support and involvement the Sacramento Area Council for the Social Studies grew to be the largest council in California. This rapid growth was also due in large part a group of San Juan School District teachers, Jerry Larson, Pat Monahan, Ron Moore, and George Pickett which offered a series of one-day, in-service programs for social studies teachers. With each in-service the teacher received college credit and a membership in SACSS and CCSS. The group went everywhere that could be reached in a day: to the foothills, to Lake Tahoe, up and down the Valley, teaching the New Social Studies and LawRelated Education, as well as the traditional social studies subjects.

During the 1970s the National Science Foundation funded a number of conferences, institutes, and workshops in the area of the social studies. The Inquiry Method and the use of Primary Sources was to rejuvenate social studies teaching and to make American students more competitive in this era of Cold War competition and Vietnam War doubt. Our social studies' leader served as an instructor in a series of NSF programs including the Administrators' Conference on the New Social Studies, the NSF-RPW Project on Anthropology, Sociology, and Geography, the Social Studies Leadership Workshop, and the Leadership Training Institute. He and the others used this expertise in the in-service programs which became increasingly popular since teachers could move up the salary schedule as well as look forward to promotion because of the credits earned and expertise learned.

Membership in CCSS exploded: the local council in Sacramento had over 1000 members and held two mini-conferences a year. In 1977, George Pickett, from the local council, became CCSS State President and the CCSS State Conference was held in Sacramento. It was the infamous conference where, at great expense, Ralph Nader was flown in to be the keynote speaker. …