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Journeying Through Life’s Chapters

Embracing Change and Growth

 I was fortunate this summer to reconnect with a good friend and colleague who was paring down his personal collection of social studies treasures. He sought my help with donating fifty years’ worth of material to an organization in order to make it accessible to the current crop of young social studies educators. I am happy to say that he was able to find a place that would accept his collection and make it available to university students.

     This act reminded me that Dr. Vic Smith has been sharing his wisdom with the Indiana social studies community for more than 50 years, and he continues to share it today. He began teaching in 1969 and retired in 2009 after a long career in education. After serving as a classroom teacher, building and school district administrator, state social studies consultant, university faculty and staff member at the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, and associate director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association, he started a new, more focused advocacy mission. He co-founded and served for many years as president of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, an organization that advocates for strong, high-quality and well-funded public education. He still serves on its board of directors. He has won recognition from almost every statewide social studies professional organization, including the Indiana Council for Economic Education and the Geography Educators’ Network of Indiana, and he received the Special Service Award from the Indiana Council for the Social Studies. His trophy case also includes career service recognition from Indianapolis Public Schools, the Association of Teacher Educators, and Indiana University’s School Administration Association.

     I have known Vic for more than 25 years, and his quiet, thoughtful manner belied his true passion for sharing everything he could to make Indiana K–12 social studies the best it could be to all teachers and students, not just the ones who could afford it. I now think one of the greatest gifts Vic has given to both Indiana social studies educators and historians is his collection of “Vic’s Statehouse Notes.” These articles are available at the website of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education,

     Vic’s summaries of Indiana legislative activity start in 2009 and lay out the entire process that Indiana’s leaders used that led to the privatization of much of Indiana’s K–12 public education system. In this series of articles, he documents the very beginning of the process, when the Indiana legislature started shifting tax dollars to private companies and private schools, to just this past April. This rich primary source provides a perspective to this progression from a person who knows how Indiana K–12 schools function and how the Indiana legislature under the control of the Republican Party has shifted tax dollars to private companies in the name of school reform. I will grant that his perspective does represent one side of the argument, but his detailed description of the legislation, conversations, and public testimony as well as his data-driven critique is worth the attention of any university or citizen historian who may want to better understand how Indiana K–12 public education was privatized.

    I want to thank Vic for providing this wonderful gift to the people of Indiana. It is just the latest example of how Vic Smith served Indiana citizens for more than 50 years.