The Common Core and New York History

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State Education Social StudiesSeveral recent news items and posts here on The New York History Blog have focused on the Common Core educational standards. Anyone interested New York state and local history should take a look at the draft New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework.

This was developed in 2012 and was discussed here on the blog then. It apparently has been in draft form for over a year.

Grade 4 and Grades 7-8 are the ones relevant to New York history.

Grade 4 (pp. 48-55) covers “Local History and Local Government.” “Local” means county, city, town and village, but there is really no local history here. Sections 4.5-4.10 cover “History of the United States and New York” but historical coverage seems to stop after the Revolution. There are some general historical themes for the period after that but no historical account of the 19th, 20th, or early 21st centuries.

Grades 7 and 8 (pp.72-85), Sections 7.1 – 8.16, are entitled “The United States and New York History.” U.S. history is covered. But New York is almost entirely absent. For instance, the U.S. Constitution is described, but the New York State Constitution is not.

The guidelines say that “the geography of New York State permitted development of the nation’s most efficient canal system which led to the emergence of New York City as the nation’s economic leader.” But they don’t reveal that this was actually New York’s famed Erie Canal, built and operated by New York State. They don’t mention other major transportation systems such as the New York Central Railroad and the New York State Thruway.

There is a unit on the Civil War, but no indication that New York furnished more soldiers, financial support, and war materiel, and sustained more casualties than any other state.

The national civil rights movement is covered, but the guidelines do not note, for instance, that the NAACP was founded in New York in 1909 or that New York enacted the first state civil rights law in 1945.

The guidelines don’t explain New York’s historical leadership and preeminence in such fields as business, finance and banking.

It isn’t clear from the website what the next steps are for this draft document. But as it was being developed, a national group was working on national Common Core standards for social studies, which had not existed before. Their document was issued in June, entitled College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards ( The document is sub-titled “Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography and History.” The development group included the American Historical Association but not the Organization of American Historians or the American Association of State and Local History.

History is discussed in six pages (45-50) of this 107-page document. There is discussion there of historical thinking, change, continuity, historical perspectives, context and evidence, and causation and argument. But there is nothing about historical content or state and local history.
It isn’t clear how, if at all, this new national standard will impact the draft New York standard.

New York state and local history is not faring well in these Common Core social studies standards.
New York State students should have the opportunity to learn the history of their own state in New York schools.


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Bruce Dearstyne

About Bruce Dearstyne

Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne lives in Guilderland. Dearstyne is a former professor at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, where he is now an Adjunct Professor. Before joining the Maryland faculty, he held positions at the New York State Archives and the Office of State History. He is the author of The Spirit of New York: Sixteen Events That Changed History, forthcoming from SUNY Press early in 2015. He is also the author of Railroads and Railroad Regulation in New York State, 1900-1913 and joint author of New York: Yesterday and Today. He served as guest editor of a special issue of the journal Public Historian on “Strengthening the Management of State History: Issues, Perspectives, and Insights from New York” (August 2011). He also writes occasional essays on New York State history issues for the “Perspective” section of the Sunday Albany Times Union.

3 thoughts on “The Common Core and New York History

  1. Miguel HernandezMiguel Hernandez

    The omissions in the Social Studies Common Core program clearly demonstrate that those who put this together are not in the least conversant with the Empire State’s considerable impact on the sweep of national and world history.

  2. Miguel HernandezMiguel Hernandez

    I think you all know Pogo’s quote about the rock-bottom source of our problems so I won’t repeat it here. However, I don’t know how we can overcome the inherent parochialism of historical societies. There just does not seem to be much interest ( at least in the ones that I am familiar with) in working cooperatively in promoting historical/cultural tourism on a broader scale. On some level this isolationist thinking is a by- product of the multi- municipalities that were created in past centuries and were considerably separated from each other. Be that as it is, local governments (for the most part) don’t seem to be much interested in historical tourism beyond affixing the term “Historical” to their municipalities name and few support their appointed municipal historian ((if they have one at all) or society in any way. In my community for instance, few if any folks know that we have a municipal historian and I can tell you that my elected local and state officials have not the slightest idea of what historic tourism is.


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