New Social Studies Curriculum: The Time to Act is Now

Bruce Dearstyne’s recent post, Historical Societies: Getting Past Hard Times, raises a number of disturbing issues. The story of the tribulations of the Saratoga County Historical Society is one of concern. The Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education (IHARE) has had several Teacherhostels / Historyhostels in Saratoga County mostly relating to the Battle of Saratoga and also in Waterford. Last summer as part of a Teaching American History grant, a group of teachers from Vermont stayed in Clifton Park while learning about the battle. I have had email exchanges with Brookside’s Executive Director Joy Houle about the possibility of having a Saratoga County History Conference there as was done in the Hudson Valley.

In Westchester the Journal News reported on the woes on Lyndhurst which already laid off the educational staff IHARE has worked with over the years and is facing problems roughly similar to Brookside. Undoubtedly there are many more tales of woe which could be added to the list.

Bruce went out to specify actions which he thinks need to be taken including mentioning my post on county historians and the upcoming change in the social studies curriculum. Anne Ackerson posted a comment that praised the “actionable ideas.” I would like to take this opportunity to mention one specific actionable item which I think should be done, starting with education.

At present, the situation with the new core curriculum in social studies is in the beginning stages. In fact, it is the theme of the New York State Council for the Social Studies annual conference to be held in Saratoga Springs, March 22-24, 2012.

That means that now is the time for the history community to make its voice heard. If we wait until after everything is set in motion it will be too late and we will be presented with a curriculum instead of participating it is creation. Therefore, I recommend that a Social Studies Common Core Curriculum Conference be held to consist of the following speakers and panels.

Morning

Welcome: Governor Andrew Cuomo

Session One: The Common Core Social Studies Curriculum

Commissioner John B. King, Jr.
Commissioner of Education and
President of the University of the State of New York

Session Two: Role of Colleges in History and Education Teaching and Professional Development
Nancy L. Zimpher, Chancellor, SUNY

Session Three: New York State Organizations and the Common Core Curriculum
New York State Archives: Christine Ward
New York State Historian: Bob Weible
New York State Museum: Christine Ryan

Afternoon

Session Four: The Role the Historian in New York State History
Public Historian: Gerald Smith, President APHNYS
Research Historians: TBD

Session Five: The Role of Historical Organizations
New York State Organizations – Rose Harvey, Commissioner, NYSOPRHP
New York Historical Societies and Museums – Anne W. Ackerson, Director, MANY and Catherine Gilbert, Executive Director, Museumwise

Session Six: The Role of the Teachers
New York State Council for the Social Studies: Lori Megivern, President
and regional council presidents

Who would be willing to host such a conference? Who would be willing to help organize it? Should anything be done at all? If so, then what?

Peter Feinman founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, a non-profit organization which provides enrichment programs for schools, professional development program for teachers, public programs including leading Historyhostels and Teacherhostels to the historic sites in the state, promotes county history conferences and the more effective use of New York State Heritage Weekend and the Ramble.

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