March 7, 2013
City teachers are waging a campaign against the state’s proposed high school social studies standards, before a Friday deadline to give feedback.
On Tuesday, Harvest Collegiate High School history teacher Stephen Lazar argued in the GothamSchools Community section that the standards undermine their own goals by overwhelming focuses on skills and historical thinking with an immense amount of content.
Throughout the week, other high school social studies teachers have been adding their objections in their own online forum, a website called “Insightful Social Studies.” The teachers are recruiting other educators to join them in constructing an alternate set of standards if the Board of Regents approves the proposed standards without substantial revision.
Several short essays are online already, and more are coming. Below, you can find excerpts from some of the pieces that are up so far.
Andy Snyder, School of the Future:
Vague, misleading, and/or cowardly wording permeate the draft N.Y. state social studies framework the way that mothballs stink up a closet. For instance, one of the 14 “Key Ideas of US History” begins, “The 1920s-1930s is characterized as a time of social, economic, and political change…” What time period don’t we characterize that way? Even as vaguely as that, the 1920s and 1930s shouldn’t be lumped together by some bureaucrat just because they happen to be neighbors.
David Sherrin, Harvest Collegiate High School:
Creating a unified curriculum with a core knowledge in world history that every student must know, and every teacher must teach, betrays the very foundations of inquiry, curiosity, and depth that lies at the heart of historical thinking. The goal of any historian, we must realize, is not to learn what everyone else knows but rather to acquire new and specific knowledge that can make a real contribution to our collective memory of the past.
Michael Perlberg, Bushwick School of Social Justice:
The problem with these conceptual understandings is that they attempt to take what makes social studies great – the debate, the discussion, the careful weighing of evidence and competing claims – and package it neatly into little phrases. Frankly, they make social studies boring.