On March 9, 2015, Greater Boston Advocacy Manager Leila Quinn gave testimony before the MA Foundation Budget Review Commission in defense of funding for social studies and civics courses. Below you will find an abridged version of her testimony.
State law charges our schools with a civic mission that we must revive. Students often learn by developing habits: just as students learn math by solving problems, and learn science through experiments, students should learn civic life by taking action on issues they care about. Our young people must know the historical context for our civilization and how government affects their daily lives, so that they may use their voices. This is the crucial moment for Massachusetts to reclaim our spot as leaders in this field.
I am here today to ask that the Chapter 70 Foundation Budget formula include funding for social studies and civics education. We must keep these departments fully funded to provide salaries and professional development for our teachers, as well as the resources to create engaging curricula.
The recent trend toward a combined “humanities” course is concerning. It is crucial that our students gain explicit social studies and civics course experiences. A single period is not enough to cover the content of what were once separate English Language Arts and social studies courses. In many districts 8th grade is a key year for civic learning, and yet the middle school social studies courses have been cut to a half-year.
With fully funded social studies departments across the state, we can ensure that our students come away with the civic knowledge, skills, and motivation to be engaged throughout their lives. Take for example, GC alumnus Anthony Mendez, who said that through GC’s action civics course, “I went from knowing nothing at all about politics to realizing that I want to be an activist.” After his civics class he began interning for a City Councilor over the summer, and got an opportunity to meet with Michelle Obama. Impressed with Anthony’s passion for leadership and his story, she invited Anthony to attend the State of the Union address as her special guest in January 2015. Anthony is now a freshman at the University of Hartford, studying Political Science. Let’s give every student in the Commonwealth the foundation for such a vibrant civic life.
Fully funded social studies departments and action civics classes will create a population of young people who build social movements, express eloquent political opinions, and make headlines with their groundbreaking work.
I ask that in your final recommendations, you include allocations for social studies and civics education in the Foundation Budget formula, as they are essential for restoring a healthy democracy. Thank you for your time.