The “No Child Left Behind” world has made it very clear that social studies is a second-class citizen in the world of education.
Like the Jim Crow South, NCLB has relegated social studies to non-important assessments in odd times of the year—assessments that have no bearing at all on promotion, at least below high school. It is given the least amount of time in the day, and the worst of materials compared to reading, mathematics and science. When the crunch to comply with NCLB standards begins in the spring, social studies is the first block of time sacrificed to the gods of standardized assessment.
Most horrific of all, when the other subjects feel the crunch of financial pressure, it is social studies that gets lynched.
A lynching is what it got on June 22, when the New York State Board of Regents, an UN-ELECTED, appointed body that oversees education in New York State, approved a cost-saving measure to cut testing in social studies for grades 5 and 8. Social studies testing was eating up assessment dollars that the “more important” subjects need. According to the Regents, this is a crime tantamount to touching a white woman in Mississippi in the 1950s.
In justifying their position, Education Commissioner David Steiner stated that “the Regents today approved responsible and appropriate measures – measures that will permit the core of elements of our testing program to continue, while we increase the rigor of those remaining exams.”
Let’s examine the effects of these “responsible and appropriate” measures.
High school students are not off the hook when it comes to social studies. Global Studies and US History & Government are no cakewalk exams: they involve a massive basket of content knowledge coupled with complex thinking and analysis skills. How are students in 10th and 11th grade to be anywhere near prepared if there is no assessments in lower grades to enforce basic content and concepts?
Furthermore, Steiner claims that the Regents are committed to “giving tests that…measure the skills and knowledge necessary for success in school, college and the workplace.” So we can survive in everyday lives with no knowledge of our own government, our own economy, our own geography or our history?
Let’s be frank. In the NCLB world, if it isn’t tested, it isn’t important. Cancelling exams in 5th and 8th grade just sent a signal to elementary and middle school teachers across the state that social studies is expendable. Social studies teachers will have to shift resources and emphasis, all without the impetus of standardized testing to motivate faculty and administration. Even worse, social studies as a subject could be wiped out altogether in many schools in New York.
Steiner and his gang did not adopt “responsible” nor “appropriate” measures. They sent a clear signal to this state—social studies is worthless. To paraphrase that odious Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney: social studies, according to the Board of Regents, has no rights any teacher, administrator or superintendent are bound to respect.
It’s sicking, and I’ve just about had it.
I’m sick and tired of crying out in the wilderness, screaming at the top of my lungs the importance of knowing our past in helping to determine our future.
I’m sick and tired of stressing the interdisciplinary nature of social studies, a subject that permeates every discipline in our educational core, from reading to science to mathematics and beyond.
I’m sick and tired of creating, writing, searching, sharing, delivering, and showing resources, assessments, books, printouts, and lessons that help teacher enhance a subject that matters little to student promotion.
I’m sick and tired of going to conferences, lectures, workshops, seminars and book signings with my fellow social studies teachers and experts who are as frustrated as I am at our sorry predicament.
In fact, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
It is time that we as the guardians of this great subject stand up and tell the Albany Regency that they are shortchanging our children and our democracy.
I’m calling on all of my fellow teachers, of all disciplines, of all states. If this can happen here, it can happen, and probably has happened, in any other state in the Union. Below is the contact information for the New York State Board of Regents, as well as those of the Education Committees in the New York State Legislature.
Let them know that the Jim Crow-attitude towards social studies must end if we are to produce well-educated, productive students that can make those great contributions to our country. We’re always saying how our kids can change the world: it’s damn near impossible to do if they don’t know anything about it.
Let’s make sure social studies gets the respect it deserves…by any means necessary!
NYS BOARD OF REGENTS MEMBERS:
To contact the Regents as a whole, use the following:
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Board of Regents, Room 110 EB
Albany, New York 12234
The following are the individual Regents and the areas they represent:
2011* Tisch, Merryl H.; B.A., M.A., Ed.D.
Chancellor; At Large
9 East 79th Street, N.Y., N.Y. 10075
Phone: (212) 879-9414 Email: RegentTisch@mail.nysed.gov
2012* Cofield, Milton L.; B.S., M.B.A., Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor; Judicial District VII – Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates
98 Hickory Ridge Road, Rochester, N.Y. 14625
Phone (585) 200-6284 Email: RegentCofield@mail.nysed.gov
2015* Bennett, Robert M.; B.A., M.S.
Chancellor Emeritus; Judicial District VIII — Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming
201 Millwood Lane, Tonawanda, NY 14150
Phone: (716) 645-1344 Email: RegentBennett@mail.nysed.gov
2014* Cohen, Saul B.; B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
14 North Chatsworth Avenue, Apt. 3E, Larchmont, NY 10538
Phone: (914) 834-0615 Email: RegentCohen@mail.nysed.gov
2015* Dawson, James C.; A.A, B.A., M.S., Ph.D.
Judicial District IV — Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington
166 U.S. Oval, Plattsburgh, NY 12903
Phone: (518) 324-2401 Email: RegentDawson@mail.nysed.gov
2011* Bottar, Anthony S.; B.A., J.D.
Judicial District V — Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego
120 Madison Street, Suite 1600, AXA Tower II, Syracuse, NY 13202
Phone: (315) 422-3466 Email: RegentBottar@mail.nysed.gov
2013* Chapey, Geraldine, D.; B.A., M.A., Ed.D.
Judicial District XI — Queens
107-10 Shore Front Parkway, Apt. 9C, Belle Harbor, NY 11694
Phone: (718) 634-8471 Email: RegentChapey@mail.nysed.gov
2015* Phillips 3rd, Harry; B.A., M.S.F.S.
Judicial District IX — Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester
71 Hawthorne Way, Hartsdale, NY 10530
Phone: (914) 948-2228 Email: RegentPhillips@mail.nysed.gov
2012* Tallon, Jr., James R. ; B.A., M.A.
Judicial District VI – Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins
United Hospital Fund, Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue, 23rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10118-0110
Phone (212) 494-0777 Email: RegentTallon@mail.nysed.gov
2015* Tilles, Roger; B.A., J.D.
Judicial District X – Nassau, Suffolk
100 Crossways Park West, Suite 107, Woodbury, N.Y. 11797
Phone (516) 364-2533 Email: RegentTilles@mail.nysed.gov
2015* Brooks Hopkins, Karen; B.A., M.F.A.
Judicial District II – Kings
30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217
Phone (718) 636-4135 Email: RegentHopkins@mail.nysed.gov
2012* Bendit, Charles R.; B.A.
Judicial District I – New York
111 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1500, New York, N.Y. 10011
Phone (212) 220-9945 Email: RegentBendit@mail.nysed.gov
2013* Rosa, Betty A., B.A., M.S. in Ed., M.S. in Ed., M.Ed., Ed.D.
Judicial District XII – Bronx
Chambreleng Hall, Fordham University, 441 East Fordham Road, Bronx, N.Y. 10458
Phone (718) 817-5053 Email: RegentRosa@mail.nysed.gov
2015* Young, Jr., Lester W., B.S., M.S., Ed.D.
55 Hanson Place, Suite 400, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217
Phone (718) 722-2796 Email: RegentYoung@mail.nysed.gov
2014* Cea, Christine D., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Judicial District XIII – Richmond
NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities
1050 Forest Hill Road, Staten Island, NY 10314
Phone (718) 494-5306 Email: RegentCea@mail.nysed.gov
2014* Norwood, Wade S., B.A.
74 Appleton Street, Rochester, NY 14611
Phone (585) 461-3520 Email: RegentNorwood@mail.nysed.gov
LINK TO EDUCATION COMMITTEE OF THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY:
LINK TO EDUCATION COMMITTEE OF THE NEW YORK STATE SENATE:
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