What follows is an open letter sent to New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia from Carol Kammen and Judy Wellman.
We write as members of the Commission on Local and Public History that was convened ten years ago by Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education Carole Huxley to advise the Department of Education on the appointment of a State Historian. Continue reading
The Klyne Esopus Museum Will Present “The Wiltwyck School for Boys: Reclaiming Human Lives,” a lecture by Eve P. Smith, on April 16, at 4 pm at the Esopus Town Hall, in Ulster County, NY.
Smith will discuss the history and legacy of the Wiltwyck School for Boys in Esopus. The School was co-founded and championed by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1942. Continue reading
They drove ambulances, bandaged the wounded, fed the hungry, ran hospitals and orphanages and raised money. The men and women who volunteered in Europe during the early years of the Great War – when the United States maintained neutrality – forged a template for modern humanitarian efforts.
Their work helped to pioneer ways to negotiate aid around the interests of warring countries, and created the infrastructure for food relief and other efforts. These activities are featured in The Volunteers: Americans Join World War I, 1914-1919, a new teacher’s curriculum launched in conjunction with an exhibition at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, opening in April. Continue reading
When New York’s governor appointed the first State Historian in 1895, the Progressive Era was just getting underway. The appointment was part of a much larger reform movement to strengthen American democracy by professionalizing government and promoting more active and knowledgeable civic participation in public affairs.
Progressives were especially focused on public education, and in 1911 – seven years after the establishment of the State Education Department – New York moved its State Historian from the Governor’s office to the newly formed department. Continue reading
In 2005, during Governor George Pataki’s administration, the New York State Legislature created the Amistad Commission to review the state’s curriculum about the slave trade.
“All people should know of and remember the human carnage and dehumanizing atrocities committed during the period of the African slave trade and slavery in America and consider the vestiges of slavery in this country,” the Amistad Commission website says. “It is vital to educate our citizens on these events, the legacy of slavery, the sad history of racism in this country, and on the principles of human rights and dignity in a civilized society.”
Unfortunately, the Amistad Commission’s effort to update the state’s slavery curriculum has been a failure. Continue reading
As the school year approaches, history teachers are looking for new classroom resources, especially primary sources for inquiry based lessons.
Many teachers want to make that local connection with their students who are sometimes unaware of the importance their area might have played in larger American History. There are a plethora of local sites and museums that are terrific jumping-off points for dynamic lessons, but I’d like to focus attention on a very useful site for educators, Hudson River Valley Heritage (HRVH). Continue reading
To the dismay of Minerva, NY’s high-profile educator Ella Lynch the struggle for quality American schooling continued through the 1920s, seemingly based on that wonderful definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
The newest plan to fix an admittedly broken system was to add another grade: kindergarten. Continue reading
In 1922, Ella Lynch’s Bookless Lessons for the Teacher–Mother was published, offering help to those parents wishing to effectively teach their children.
At the time, big battles were brewing on that front. Attempts were under way to legislate rural schools out of existence and force centralization. Continue reading
Ella Frances Lynch – well spoken, thoughtful, and passionate in defining the problems with America’s public school system – refused to back down from proposed reforms. She was right and she knew it. Newspapers featured Ella’s editorials regularly, but the biggest attention-getter was a series of articles she wrote for Ladies Home Journal beginning in 1912. The title: “Is the Public School a Failure? It Is; the Most Momentous Failure in Our American life Today.”
Said Lynch, “Can you imagine a more grossly stupid, a more genuinely asinine system tenaciously persisted in to the fearful detriment of over 17 million children, and at a cost to you of over $403 million each year—a system that not only is absolutely ineffective in its results, but also actually harmful in that it throws each year 93 out of every 100 children into the world of action absolutely unfitted for even the simplest tasks of life? … The public school system is not something to be proud of, but a system that is today the shame of America.” Continue reading
The position of New York State Historian was created in 1895. The Historian was appointed by the Governor until 1911, when the position was moved to the State Education Department. Since that time, it has been located in a number of offices including the Office of State History (1966-1976), and since then, in the State Museum.
State Historians’ job descriptions and priorities have varied over the years as well. The first State Historian, Hugh Hastings (1895-1907), had been a New York Times reporter and concentrated on documentary publications. The next one, Victor Hugo Paltsits (1907-1911), a librarian and expert in colonial history, was known for meticulous editing of published editions and laid the basis for expanding the position into the area of archives. Alexander C. Flick (1923-1939) edited and led the publication of a multi-volume history of the state. Louis L. Tucker (1966-1976) held the titles of State Historian and Assistant Commissioner for State History in the Office of State History and, in the early 1970’s, was also Executive Director of the New York State American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. Continue reading