Professional Development 1
2015 American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Program:
A Constitutional Speech Contest
Do you know someone at your high school who is an excellent speaker and knows the Constitution? Could this individual use a college scholarship? Let them talk their way to college. We are looking for a talented group of high school students in grades 9 through 12.
The purpose of this program is to develop a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the Constitution of the United States on the part of high school students. Other objectives of the contest include the development of leadership qualities, the ability to think and speak clearly and intelligently, and the preparation for acceptance of the duties and responsibilities, the rights and privileges of American citizenship.
In summary, contestants will be judged on an 8-10 minute oration on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution with emphasis on citizen’s duties and responsibility. This prepared oration will be followed later during the competition by a 3-5 minute assigned topic on one of four Constitutional Amendments (5, 6, 8, and 19). The assigned topic will be drawn at random during the competition and each contestant will be advised of his/her assigned Amendment five minutes before they speak. The purpose of the assigned topic discourse is to test the speaker's knowledge of the subject, the extent of his/her research, and the ability to discuss the topic as related to the basic principles of government under the Constitution.
Information about the contest and the application forms are available online at www.colegionoratorical.org. Please mail or email the completed application to me by Monday, December 1st, 2014. I will assist teachers/students/parents with any question and help in identifying a sponsor. Applicants will be certified by the sponsoring organization by December 15th. Five scholarships will be awarded from $500 to $2,000 at the Colorado contest to be held at the Arapahoe Community College in Littleton on Saturday January 3rd.
The Colorado winner will compete at the National Contest to be held from April 10-12, 2015 in Indianapolis for individual scholarships up to $18,000. Last year’s Colorado winner went on to the National Competition and came in third place overall, she received approximately $18,000 in total scholarship money from the State and National competitions.
Ed Pietsch (peach), 5667 S. Otis St., Littleton, CO 80123-0824
720-287-2108; email: email@example.com
President's Message from Stephen Armstrong,
National Council for the Social Studies
You Are the Advocate
For many social studies teachers working in the classroom, the statement that they should be engaged in “advocacy” for their profession sounds strange or scary. Many social studies teachers are told by their administrators not to let students know what their political positions are on local referendum issues, elections, etc., with an implication that all personal politics is to be dampened. In addition, many teachers perceive “advocacy” to be something that a few NCSS leaders might do off in Washington, DC; something with little connection to what they actually are doing in the classroom every day.
I have news for you: teachers have a constitutionally protected right to do important advocacy outside of the classroom, and it all begins at the local level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 30-year veteran—or the first-year teacher—talking to his or her state legislator or city/town council member on the value and importance of social studies education. With politics and budgets being as they are today, a large amount of legislative action that will directly impact social studies education is likely to take place at the local and state levels, and even national policy has its source at the grass roots.
Better than just lobbying a council member, begin by inviting him or her to speak to your classes or to help judge a Geography Bee competition. Successful advocates will tell you that building up this relationship is infinitely helpful.
Many teachers who go into a state legislator’s office for the first time fear that they won’t remember “everything that needs to be said.” Or, conversely, they are unclear just what to ask for. You may have only 10 or 15 short minutes to “make your case” (I have learned by this point to NOT take this time restriction personally). You might begin by briefly “Telling your story,” showing how social studies is important for your students. If you have a specific example of a student in your classes being positively impacted by what he or she did in your classes, tell that memorable story. Then, be prepared and ask for something specific. Don’t just ask for “more money for social studies,” rather, ask your legislator (or their aid, if the official is unavailable) to support a specific bill, initiative, or line item on a budget. Make sure you leave your card with the person you are speaking to, with assurances that you are available. Then, send a follow up note (not an email) to the person that you spoke with, thanking that person for his or her time.
Further hints: Advocate for all of the core disciplines of social studies, K-12. Since many legislators are especially interested when civics or civic education is mentioned, make sure that topic is covered. Coordinate with your local or state council leaders, and encourage others to do the same thing you are doing. Visit in groups of three or four, and rehearse your message before you arrive, and be sure you have a clearly articulated, central request.
Advocacy is not just something done by a few NCSS folks in Washington. The best advocacy is done by classroom teachers in their relationships with local and state officials. It’s never too late to begin!