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

By Geyer, Pat | Social Studies Review, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

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

Geyer, Pat, Social Studies Review

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. That and other controversies caused a fist fight during the Conference, and Sacramento was not to be selected to be a conference site for almost another 20 years. CCSS expenses, including costs for the Executive Director nearly bankrupted the State Council as membership continued to increase. This was the period when Ruth Delzell came to CCSS as secretary to the State Council. Her steady and quiet organization and firm budgeting helped to save CCSS. The hubris and excitement was over; but the steady growth of CCSS continued. It appeared that a bright future was in store for CCSS. All that was needed was to involve more talented educators from around the state.

Meanwhile, our school district social studies specialist expanded his curriculum work. He was Director of the Consumer Education School Community Assistance Team Project, staff member of the National Student Leadership Conference, and Director of the District Ethnic Heritage Project. Also, he continued his on-going work as a consultant to the Constitutional Rights Foundation and Center for Civic Education. His efforts helped his district become a leader in social studies education; a position that it still manages to maintain.

Throughout the 1980s our social studies specialist consulted for the National Bicentennial Competition on the Constitution & Bill of Rights, the Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Germany, The California Congressional Districts 3 & 4 National Bicentennial Competition on the Constitution. He was a member of the CSUS Planning Committee for the Center for Economic Education; Co-Chair of Sacramento's Annual Law-Related Conference; and Co-Founder, Member of the Executive Committee, and Treasurer of the Citizenship and Law-Related Education Center in Sacramento. In all these activities, he included his district's teachers and brought new curriculum to his school district.

CCSS also took a more active role in State social studies curriculum development during the 1980s. Jean Claugus, recently retired from the Cincinnati, Ohio school system and a former NCSS President, became the volunteer lobbyist for CCSS, although she would not admit to holding that position. Her quiet help and the hard work of other social studies leaders including Jack Hoar, Margaret Branson, Carol Marquis, and our Sacramento Social Studies Specialist, began to put social studies education at the forefront. They were appointed to the Task Force on the California Assessment Program for the Social Studies.

A bill for the first state-wide test of students' social studies knowledge was passed. The California Department of Education appointed, for the first time, a Director of Social Studies Education. The position was first held by Jack Parks and later assumed by Diane Brooks who continued to develop and implement social studies throughout the K-12 schools in California. The 1987 Framework for History/Social Studies outlined a comprehensive program of social studies from Kindergarten to grade 12. Charlotte Crabtree, Professor of Education, UCLA, championed a vigorous primary history program based on famous people and literature. Jan Colemen, a middle school history teacher, and David Levering, Professor of History at CSU Pomona worked to insert three full years of social studies education in the High school. In addition, they successfully included three years of world history for grades six, seven, and ten. Diane Ravich, Professor of History at Columbia University, lent national expertise and helped the Framework gain national publicity. Jack Hoar and Jean Claugus led the Framework Committee and, of course, Diane Brooks served as Consultant from the Department of Education. Credit must be given to the leadership of California Superintendent of Education, Bill Honig, who made history/social studies a state priority.

Our Sacramento Social Studies Specialist, while not on the Framework Committee, served on a number of additional state committees including the History/Social Science Advisory Committee on Model Curriculum Standards, and the California Committee on Citizenship Education. In addition, he assumed leadership in a number of social studies organizations: President of the California Social Studies' Supervisors' Association, President of the Sacramento Area Council for the Social Studies, President of the Social Studies Supervisors' Association of the National Council for the Social Studies. It was an exciting period of change and growth for social studies education.

But the momentum could not be sustained; the 1990s brought growth to excess, retrenchments, and new directions. Our social studies specialist found himself fighting to hold his position as new superintendents wanted funds for other purposes and other directions. He was not alone; social studies specialists or social studies curriculum directors had been disappearing from school districts throughout California since the mid-eighties. In 1991 his position was eliminated and he became a Vice-Principal. But his heart was in social studies education not administration. So in 1993 he joined The Center for Civic Education as State Coordinator of We the People... The Citizen and the Constitution. We the People is a set of materials for civic education and includes Project Citizen for middle schools. It also includes competitions in civic education at the local, state, and national level.

He served as director of a number of U.S. Department of Education grants for civic education. He traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina; Zagreb, Croatia; and Bratislava, Slovakia; as a Civic Education Consultant. And he became the Director of the Justice Education Programs of the Center for Civic Education, which included being National Coordinator for the U.S. Office of Justice and Delinquency Prevention Programs for Youth, and a coordinator of the State Committee. I am never home. I spend three out of every four weeks in hotels, meeting rooms, and airports," I know." I reply, "It took me two weeks just to get an appointment with you."

He has been the recipient of numerous awards: The Liberty Bell award for contributions to law-related education; The Sacramento Area Council Presidents Award for Outstanding Contribution to Social Studies; The Outstanding Service Award, The Hilda Taba Award for Outstanding and Enduring Contribution to the teaching of Social Studies in California from the California Council for the Social Studies.

The 1990s changed education in California, especially social studies education. The testing program, which had grown during the 1980s, boomed to excess. SAT9 tested children from elementary through high school. The high school exit exam required all students to master algebra in order to earn a high school diploma. The testing stakes were raised, school scores were published in newspapers and on the web so that parents and others could compare. Schools with low scores scrambled to address the situation and test consultants were brought in to work with teachers on how to prepare students for multiple choice standardized tests. Cash awards were given to teachers and schools, which had improved student scores. Education teams were sent to "restructure" schools, which did not improve. Pressure mounted. Since the tests emphasized reading and mathematics, social studies and other subjects were neglected, especially in the elementary grades.

New organizations, often with government funding, became leaders in social studies. The History Projects, including the International Studies Projects, grew and continued to provide summer in-service and training to teachers. "Reading and Writing Education through the Social Studies" was an emphasis. Other organizations in the social studies disciplines such as the Geographic Alliance, Economic Education, and, of course, Civic Education sought influence. The California Council for the Social Studies searched for a new direction in a period where no one group seemed to speak for the social studies.

"So what is the role for CCSS in social studies education?" I asked our social studies specialist now Civic Education Director. "Decision-making has gone back to the individual school. There is no school district curriculum leadership. What curriculum leadership is left lies with the County Offices of Education or the separate interest groups." "Will there again be a group of young, enthusiastic teachers working for social studies education?" "I don't know," he replies. "A part of me wants to recapture the enthusiasm and drive of those early years, but I can't go back. A new group will be needed to take CCSS and social studies education in new directions."

Thank you Roy Erickson. You have been one of the people who have defined social studies education in California. May your experience and example provide the social studies' direction needed to meet the changes and challenge of the 21st Century.


But his heart was in social studies education not administration. So in 1993 he joined The Center for Civic Education as State Coordinator of We the People... The Citizen and the Constitution.

[Author Affiliation]

Pat Geyer lives in the Sacramento area and is a long-time high school teacher and active member of CCSS. Pat has served in many official capacities in CCSS and is currently writing the Educator Highlight Review column for the Social Studies Review. In her free time Pat enjoys traveling and visiting with other social studies educators.

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