Tag Archives: Education

Peter Feinman: Cuomo’s ‘Path Through History’ Project

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Our Governor’s father, also a Governor, was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. The son wants to make history as the first President of Ellis Island origin. He has gained a reputation as a passion advocate for the restoration of the Capitol, so much so that he was said that he seemed “at times more like its chief historian—or at other moments, its chief architect, interior decorator and custodian” (New York Times). Continue reading

Debi Duke: ‘Make No Little Plans’

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Peter Feinman may be the Daniel Burnham of New York History. Burnham, born 1912 in Henderson, NY, was an architect and urban planner. Among his many projects were the Flatiron Building in NYC and master plans for Chicago and Washington, DC. He once told his colleagues “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans. Aim high in hope and work.”

Peter stirs the blood of those of us who want to encourage appreciation for and preservation of our state, regional, and local culture and history. He’s great at pointing out bureaucratic folly, confused thinking, and just plain laziness in every quarter, and he offers useful advice about promoting what I would call a place-based agenda.
I’ve often hesitated to engage Peter—in person or here on New York History—precisely because he doesn’t think small, and I feared my ideas would fail to stir souls. As someone who works with teachers and informal educators at museums, historic sites, parks, and so on, stirring souls means taking on those whose actions, if not words, are changing for the worse the way all of us think and talk about education.
As individuals the folks I serve often feel there is little they can do to change decisions being made at the state and national level. These actions increasingly equate learning with test scores leaving shallower curriculum in their wake. Teachers and informal educators also often feel powerless to alter an amorphous atmosphere that seems bent on erasing every opportunity to draw on students’ interests, community happenings and resources, or their own creativity.
Yes, they encourage their organizations to do the right thing when these issues are on the table, but many aren’t really interested in becoming policy experts or spending time lobbying. Yes, they apply for grants to make field trips possible, even when they’ve been cut from district budgets. If they have time they may get to know the staff at the local historical society, museum, or environmental group. But where, I wondered, is the BIG idea worthy of Burnham or Peter?
I think I may have found it in one of my favorite blogs, “Bridging Differences,” published by Education Week. Taking turns, veteran educator and author Deborah Meier and NYU education historian Diane Ravitch take on the biggest issues in education sharing insights, differences, and more.
In her June 7 post, Meier articulated perfectly a big idea many teachers and informal educators I know live by even if they don’t articulate it as bluntly as she does.
Early in her career Meier was taken aback when “a lady arrived from ‘downtown’” and criticized her classroom. It seems Meier wasn’t following “the curriculum guide” and had instead interpreted its themes in ways she thought would engage her students including, as it happens, anchoring it in the place she was teaching.
As Meier puzzled over how to respond to the lady from downtown, her colleagues “came out of hiding,” Meier wrote, and reassured “me that she’d never be back. They apologized for not having explained ahead of time what one does in such circumstances. Which is, essentially, to lie and apologize.
“I spent many years following that advice—and truly no one ever ‘came back.’ And I passed on this advice to student-teachers….” Meier added.
So, is the big idea “lie and apologize?” Maybe. But maybe it’s this: while we’re trying to change curriculum, standards, tests, and all the other constraints that make it hard to incorporate place-based learning, let’s do what we can to let teachers know that we want them to use their judgment and creativity even when it feels like no one else does.

Debi Duke is coordinator of Teaching the Hudson Valley, a program of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area & Greenway, the National Park Service’s Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, NYS DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College.

Fort Ti: Am Rev Teacher Scholarships Available

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Fort Ticonderoga has announced that four scholarships are available for teachers to attend the Ninth Annual Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution September 21-23, 2012. This annual seminar explores the political, military, and social history related to America’s War for Independence
Seminar on the American Revolution takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. The scholarships are available for teachers at all grade levels.

This seminar at Fort Ticonderoga features presentations by authors and historians, including Benjamin Carp from Tufts University, Marla Miller from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Andrew O’Shaughnessy from the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. Topics include an examination of new sources related to the Battle of Valcour on Lake Champlain in October 1776.

Since 2001, Fort Ticonderoga has provided scholarships for 91 teachers from across the country to attend its seminars and conferences. Teachers interested in applying for a scholarship to attend the of the Ninth Annual Seminar on the American Revolution should download an application at www.fort-ticonderoga.org by clicking on “Explore and Learn” and selecting the “Educators” tab.  Applications are due by August 15. Successful applicants will receive free registration, two box lunches, and an opportunity to dine with the Seminar speakers at a private dinner the Saturday evening of the Seminar. Contact Rich Strum, Director of Education, at (518) 585-6370 if you have questions.
Non-teachers can register to attend the Seminar on the American Revolution as well. The cost is $120 if registering before July 15; $145 after that date. Registration forms can be downloaded from the Fort’s website at www.fort-ticonderoga.org under the “Explore and Learn” tab by selecting “Life Long Learning” on the drop down menu and then clicking on the Ninth Annual Seminar on the American Revolution. 

Photo: Detail from Plan of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence by Lieut. Charles Wintersmith from the collection of the FortTiconderoga Museum. Fort Ticonderoga is offering Teacher Scholarships to attend its Ninth Annual Seminar on the American Revolution September 21-23, 2012.

Q&A: Rebecca Goldman of SAA’s SNAP Roundtable

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In January 2012, the Society of American Archivists (SAA), the national professional association for archivists and other information professionals responsible for historical records, approved the formation of the Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable (SNAP). A much-needed and welcome resource for those considering, actively pursuing, or transitioning into the archives profession, SNAP was founded by its current chair, Rebecca Goldman, who is also Media and Digital Services Librarian at La Salle University in Philadelphia and the author of the popular archives webcomic Derangement and Description.

The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York recently chatted with Goldman about her decision to form SNAP, SNAP’s goals and future direction(s), archival education and professional involvement, opportunities for students and new professionals in the tight job market, and other SNAP-ish themes.

ART: What was the main impetus for your establishing the SNAP Roundtable?

RG: Ever since my first Annual Meeting in 2010, I’ve been thinking about the representation of new archivists within SAA and within the profession. I put up a comic that summarized all the things I was thinking about, and it generated some good discussion, but nothing really came of it. Then, about a year ago, I read that ALA had started a Young Professionals Working Group, and thought, hey, why doesn’t SAA have a group like that? I posted my question to Twitter, Council member Kate Theimer saw it and suggested I try to start a roundtable, and the rest, I suppose, is history. Any SAA member can propose a new roundtable, but until Kate suggested it, it hadn’t really occurred to me as something that I could do.

ART: The SNAP website features an impressive listing of your many goals as an organization. Looking just at SNAP’s first year, is there any goal in particular that has been or will be the main priority? What projects or initiatives reflecting this goal would you like to see happen during SNAP’s first year?

RG: When I first raised the idea of forming a roundtable for new archivists, I had the following goals in mind:

•Advocate for new archivists within SAA and within the archival profession
•Provide a space for discussion of issues affecting new archivists
•Allow new archivists to gain leadership experience through roundtable service

I think we’ve met that second goal already–the SNAP list is both a very active discussion area and a welcoming community for new archivists. We’ve also made some progress in reaching out to other SAA groups (our Liaison Coordinator, Sasha Griffin, has been really instrumental here). And SAA is definitely taking note of us. If you take a look at the agenda items for SAA’s next Council meeting, an awful lot of them mention SNAP. What’s proving more difficult is taking all the great ideas generated on our list and turning these into projects for SNAP to work on. So my goal for our first year would be to come up with a process for starting new projects: appointing leaders, documentation, tracking progress, etc. I also feel that much of the discussion has been focused on students and un(der)employed new archivists, and that our goal of supporting well-employed new archivists, as they move from entry-level to mid-career or managerial positions, has been overlooked. I’d like to keep a broader definition of new archivist in mind as SNAP moves forward.

ART: As SAA’s representative student agency, it would seem that SNAP is uniquely suited to advocate for changes and/or improvements to graduate archival education programs. Has there been any discussion along these lines thus far among the SNAP leadership? If so, in what ways does SNAP envision that archival education programs could better serve their students?

RG: Judging from recent conversations on the SNAP list, one of the biggest areas of concern is archival internships–both publicizing the need for internship or other work experience during grad school, and making sure that internships are conducted in a way that’s ethical and educational. I would love to see SNAP produce guidelines for graduate student internships. As far as changes to the educational programs themselves–we could certainly advocate for changes, but SAA doesn’t accredit archives programs, and their Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies were just revised in 2011. Right now, I don’t see a whole lot of room for SNAP contributions in this area.

ART: Although SNAP primarily serves students and early professionals who are already pursuing careers as archivists, do you intend for SNAP to also play a leading role in SAA’s outreach efforts to recruit new professionals to the archives field? What potential strategies do you think might be effective in better promoting the archives profession as a career option?

RG: I don’t know too many new archivists who would recommend entering the archives field right now. There aren’t even enough jobs for all the recent grads. I’d rather see SAA do one or both of the following things:

•recruit related professionals–people working in jobs with archives-related responsibilities who may not identify as archivists or see the need for SAA membership. These related professionals are one of the target audiences for SNAP, because their work-related needs are similar to those of archives students and new archives professionals.

•promote the importance of archives to organizations and communities that don’t already have them. If you’re an organization and you want to start an archives, or hire an archival consultant, SAA has you covered. But that assumes you know enough about archivists to know why you’d need one. What about outreach to the people with the power to create job opportunities for new archivists?

ART: As SNAP’s Chair, what would your advice be to students and early-career archivists looking to become more involved in the professional archives community, either at the local, regional, or national level? Aside from joining SNAP, of course.

RG: SAA (and, to a lesser extent, the local and regional archives organizations) can absolutely seem intimidating as a newcomer. If you want to get involved with a group or project, just ask! Every SAA section and roundtable lists their leaders, and if you’re an SAA member you can log in to get their contact information. All the SAA leaders I’ve met would love to get more new archivists involved in their groups. I can’t speak for every regional group, but I’ve found MARAC to be pretty friendly, and they had a great session at their spring meeting explaining all the ways new members and new archivists could get involved. Local groups: I’ve tried and failed multiple times to get involved with mine. Some are awesome (like ART :) ), but I’ve found that small local orgs can be clique-y and very difficult to break into. As a general piece of advice, if you’re ever in a situation where you’re networking with other archivists–like a conference, or a local meeting–assume that people are shy rather than unfriendly.

I’d also recommend starting a Twitter account and following some archivists on Twitter (Kate Theimer has a good list to start off on Twitter). The relative merits of Twitter vs. the Archives and Archivists list has been much debated, but I will say that as a new archivist I find asking questions via Twitter to be quick, easy, and not too intimidating.

Nick Pavlik is a member of the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York and serves as archivist for the 92nd Street Y, one of New York City’s preeminent community and cultural institutions.

Teaching the Hudson Valley from Civil War to Civil Rights

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Educators are invited to discover new ways to use the region’s special places to teach about controversy and decision making at In Conflict Crises: Teaching the Hudson Valley from Civil War to Civil Rights and Beyond. Registration is now open for THV’s annual institute, July 24-26, at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Presidential Library in Hyde Park.

This year’s opening talk, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Controversy and  Connection in the Classroom of Life, will feature Kim and Reggie Harris, musicians, storytellers, educators, and interpreters of history. Accepting THV’s invitation they wrote, “Our nation’s history is filled with conflict, opposition, controversy, and crisis, but is also rich in perseverance, collaboration, determination, and compromise. We look forward to reflecting on ways to use these realities to prepare students to be thinkers and problem solvers.”

During the institute, more than 15 workshops will connect educators with historians, writers, and scientists, as well as their colleagues from schools, parks, and historic sites throughout the Valley. Topics include
Evaluating Scientific Claims (Cary Institute), Using ELA Common Core to Teach Controversy (Lewisboro Elementary School teachers), and Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State and the Civil War, (New York State Museum).

On day 2 of the institute participants will choose one of six in-depth field experiences at Columbia County History Museum (Kinderhook), Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and FDR Presidential Library (Hyde Park), Fishkill Depot, Katherine W. Davis River Walk Center (Sleepy Hollow), Mount Gulian Historic Site (Beacon), or Palisaides Interstate Park.

You can find out more about the program online

Photo: Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, courtesy Bill Urbin, Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, National Park Service.

Stony Point Battlefield Offers Children’s Programs

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This summer Stony Point Battlefield will offer a history program for children entering 5th and 6th grade in the fall of 2012. Each session will take place on three consecutive weeks on a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The program will repeat each week. The 3-day sessions will include interactive lessons that teach children about the colonial times, the American Revolution, and 19th century lighthouses. Children will enjoy hands-on learning and participate in exciting outdoor recreational activities.
Campers can take part in 18th century fire making and cooking, secret message deciphering using quill pens and ink, and interactive demonstrations of 18th century medicine, clothing, and blacksmithing. Projects include making musket balls, 18th century food, candles, and lanterns. This program focuses on creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere for children to learn about history.

Session 1: July 18th, 19th and 20th: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Session 2: July 25th, 26th and 27th: 9:00 AM- 1:00 PM

Session 3: August 1st, 2nd and 3rd: 9:00 AM- 1:00 PM

***Cost: $125.00 per 3 day session***

For more information, please call: 845 786-2521.

Social Studies Curriculum: A Modest Proposal II

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Regular readers of my posts know that the role of civics was an important point of contention raised at the recent annual conference of the New York State Council for the Social Studies. Such readers also know I have consistently advocated on behalf of local history both for the pedagogy of teaching critical skills beginning with one’s own backyard to the civic benefit of developing a sense of place, a sense of belonging, and a sense of community. Those concerns affect not only an individual’s sense of identity with the immediate area where one lives but also with the country as a whole where one is a citizen. Continue reading

Teaching NY Social Studies: A Modest Proposal

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What do we need to do so when we pass the torch to next generation it is ready to grab it? With the upcoming vote by the New York State Regents on the social studies requirements for a high school diploma and the ongoing issue of the Common Core Curriculum with its lack of citizenship as a goal and probable minimizing of local history, I thought I would take this opportunity to issue my own modest proposal on what should be done. Continue reading

Place-Based Education Resource Fair Wednesday

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Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV) invites teachers, 4H and scout leaders, home schoolers, PTA activists, and others working with children and teens to drop in for a free place-based education resource fair between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 16, at the Wallace Education & Visitor Center on the grounds of the FDR Home and Presidential Library in Hyde Park.

Many educators are familiar with field trips offered by local museums, historical societies and sites, parks, and environmental groups in our region. Fewer are aware of the artifacts and primary sources, staff expertise, traveling trunks, in-school programs, and other resources sites are eager to share. The fair is designed to give educators from sites in the mid-Hudson area an opportunity to talk with teachers and youth group leaders one-on one and describe what they have to offer. At the same time, teachers and others will be able to explain what would be helpful to their students and programs.

Light refreshments will be served and drawings will be held for items ranging from private tours of area historic sites to books and water bottles. While the event is free, interested parties are asked to RSVP to Info@TeachingtheHudsonValley.org or 845-229-9116, ext. 2035, with their names and schools or organizations. Pre-registration is required to be entered into the drawings.

Formal and Informal Educators: Can We All Get Along?

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One of the ideas behind Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV) is that there’s a disconnect between K-12 teachers (formal educators) and the informal educators at our region’s many historical societies, museums, parks, galleries, historic sites, and so on. Informal educators, as we sometimes call them, have all this knowledge and all these amazing treasures that too few students get to glimpse.

We’re not Pollyanna we know only too well that there are real barriers to getting kids out of the classroom and into their communities. In future posts, I hope to discuss ways to bridge the gap between formal and informal educators, but first I want to share some ideas for collaborating that were generated when we asked teachers and site staff what they wished the other knew about their worlds.

Let’s start with what they said they thought they could accomplish by working together:

Make education more meaningful. When students handle, measure, or experience actual objects and phenomena, learning becomes experiential/hands-on/authentic/inquiry- based and rooted in real-world understandings.

Connect place and community with learning.

Expand students’ capacity to make cogent arguments, connections, and observations; to ask questions and experiment; to use the scientific method; to engage in analytic thinking; and to experience awe and wonder.

Expand students’ boundaries.

Expose students to a broader range of styles, voices, and points of view and make it easier to address different kinds of learners.

Support learning standards because experience builds skills and knowledge.

Introduce students to more types of expertise along with a wider range of facilities, resources, and equipment.

Open new career possibilities for students because they see people doing other kinds of work.

Introduce more complex concepts such as appreciation, preservation, stewardship, community, environmental and historical literacy, and scientific and political awareness – and help to make them concrete.

Help students recognize that learning happens everywhere.

Encourage love of learning by showing that it can be fun and engaging.

Change the way students think about and experience learning especially when teachers discover and learn too.

Provide vivid references and jumping off points.

Next, here’s what formal educators told informal educators would help:

Develop consistency so we know what to expect when we visit or you visit us.

Be flexible. Make sure your staff is willing and able to respond to teachers’ needs, e.g., age, discipline, special needs.

Help students ask meaningful questions by sharing what you and your staff ask — or even debate — about your place and collections.

Tie programming to curriculum in creative ways. Surprise us. Or, if you’re stumped, ask us for ideas.

Consider sharing more than exhibits.

  • Take kids outside. Talk about landscape, architecture, plants, animals — your physical place
  • Share the knowledge, expertise, and point-of-view of your staff and volunteers
  • Show artifacts or things that aren’t normally on display
  • Tell us how you work and make decisions
  • Show us any special equipment you use

Extend the experience by sharing technology, documents, oral histories, and other resources we can take with us or access from school

Visit us bring or loan documents, objects, artifacts, equipment, etc.

Equally revealing, here’s what informal educators recommended to teachers:
Prepare students and create a context for the visit. Use our pre- and post-visit materials, including evaluations, to extend student learning.

Integrate site experiences across disciplines.

Aim to make experiential learning an ongoing feature of your classroom. We can help.

Treat site visits as major learning opportunities not treats or rewards.

Continue, repeat, and extend experiences. For instance, use technology or repeat site activities at school, e.g., test water from a stream on school grounds, bring site staff to school, do journaling in the school yard instead of at desks.

Together, formal and informal educators agreed that taking the following steps could make their work together more productive for each and for kids:

Share your context and passion and try to understand that of your collaborator.

Communicate before and after the visit.

  • Discuss context, curriculum connections, and standards.
  • Agree on expectations, e.g., pre- and post-visit activities, evaluations, and/or surveys.
  • Exchange e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
  • Strive for multiple visits (both directions) and ongoing contact.

Encourage students to communicate directly with sites and informal educators.

Respect each other and your missions.

Identify and strive to meet mutual goals.

Involve and inform others, e.g., students, parents, boards, and administrators. Help your stakeholders understand the importance of schools and sites working together.

Photo: Students at Peebles Island (Courtesy Regional Alliance for Preservation). 

Debi Duke is coordinator of Teaching the Hudson Valley, a program of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area & Greenway, the National Park Service’s Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, NYS DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College.

New Contributor:Debi Duke, Teaching the Hudson Valley

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Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor, Debi Duke, coordinator of Teaching the Hudson Valley, a program of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area & Greenway, the National Park Service’s Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, NYS DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College.

Debi was previously executive director of the National Coalition of Education Activists, a parent- teacher alliance with an emphasis on equity in education. For the first half of her career, Debi worked in the labor movement advising and training union leaders and rank-and-file in organizing, communications, and health and safety. From time to time she works as a consultant to labor and not-for-profit groups.

Teaching New York History: Three Frameworks

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The revision of the New York State social studies curriculum should involve, or call on the expertise of, many individuals and historical groups, or they should consider proactively advancing their suggestions. Peter Feinman’s recent post included the resolutions of the annual meeting in March of the New York State Social Studies Council, articulating the concerns of social studies teachers and reaffirming the importance of social studies. Continue reading

Size Matters: Advocating for New York History

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Since my emergency post of April 22 a lot has happened.

1. MANY/Museumwise held its annual conference
2. APHNYS held its annual conference at the same time
3. The NYS Board of Regents met
4. Gov. Cuomo created a New York Education Reform Commission
5. Gov. Cuomo’s “Path Through History” initiative scheduled a meeting for May 21

Let’s see if it is possible to make sense of some of these developments. Continue reading

Women’s Rights Sites Offer Field Trip Funds

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Women’s Rights National Historical Park is offering an opportunity for school and youth groups to submit applications for transportation funding to visit the sites associated with the 1848 First Women’s Rights Convention. This is part of an ongoing effort by the National Park Service to bring under-served and underrepresented school and youth groups to place-based learning experiences in national parks. Continue reading

Late-Breaking: Failed Tests and the NYS Regents

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The New York State Board of Regents will be meeting on Monday and Tuesday, April 23-24, in Albany. The meeting overlaps with the Museumwise/MANY conference in Albany which I will be attending and the Public Historians meeting in Long Island which I will not be able to attend since I already had registered for the Albany meeting. Communication and planning among the various groups leaves a lot to be desired. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Social Studies Curriculum Resolutions

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At the annual statewide conference of social studies teachers, the NYSCSS board passed the following resolutions which have now been disseminated to the members through the NYSCSS website and publication. They express the concern by the NYSCSS over the diminished role of social studies in k-12 education and of the prospect of English teachers, more formally, ELA teachers, using historic documents to teach reading without being trained in the historical context which produced those primary source documents. It would be like teaching Shakespeare without being aware of the Elizabethan context during which he wrote. Continue reading

Oz and Bedford Falls: Upstate NY’s American Icons

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Upstate New York has bequeathed to the American culture two iconic towns, neither of which exist in the real world. Bedford Falls from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life is based on the village of Seneca Falls…or so claim the people of Seneca Falls! Oz of the Wizard of Oz book series and one memorable movie also derives its origin from the exact same area – author Frank Baum was spurred on by his living in Fayetteville in what is now the Gage Home. Continue reading

Citizenship: NYS Social Studies Conference Update

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The New York State Council for the Social Studies annual conference which I attended was held March 22-24 in Saratoga Springs. Several of the sessions were related to the new common core curriculum in social studies. The primary presenter was Larry Paska of the New York State Education. Also speaking was Regent James Dawson. In addition to the formal presentations both answered questions, Paska in a scheduled second session and Regent Dawson in an impromptu setting for close to an hour after his talk. In both sessions, teachers raised the issue of citizenship not being a goal for the proposed new curriculum. They are to prepare students for college and work but not to be adult human beings in a democratic society. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Social Studies Conference Commentary

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The New York State Council for the Social Studies annual conference was held March 22-24 in Saratoga Springs. Several of the sessions were related to the new common core curriculum in social studies.

The primary presenter was Larry Paska of the New York State Education whom Bruce Dearstyne identified in a post last week as the point person in the state for the project. Also speaking was Regent James Dawson. Continue reading