Monthly Archives: September 2010

A Regent “Responds” to our Social Studies Problem in NYS

Oh where to begin? Now my fight to restore social studies in New York encountered its own Judge Smails.

In the continuing saga about the lack of state testing in grades 5 and 8 in social studies, the New York State Board of Regents managed to whangle Race to the Top money out of  Arne Duncan.  Way to fleece the blind and dumb there, guys!

Now that we had our blood money, I thought we could then proceed to re-establishing the tests that had been abandoned this year for budgetary reasons.  It only made sense, since it was sheer dollars that suspended the tests in the first place.  So I drafted the following to the Regents:

Honorable members of the Board of Regents:

First I would like to congratulate you on winning the Race to the Top Phase II funds for New York State. Even though you had to lie about our assessment data (see page 106 of your application), it was a job well done.

Now that we have Secretary Duncan’s blood money, I hope that one thing can be addressed: When will Social Studies testing in grades 5 and 8 return?

I have repeated sent messages to this regard with no response. Therefore I will be sending you this letter every day until I get a response.

I think the social studies teachers of this state deserve an answer.

 Thank you

This morning, I receive a response from Regent Harry Phillips, III.  Regent Phillips is a resident of the rich suburb of Hartsdale, a Harvard graduate and a successful businessman–everything you’d expect from the rich elite that predominate the board.  His response was the following:

I expect that teachers will give formative tests in all grades for Social Studies.

Harry Phillips

Regent, Judicial District IX

Really, Harry?  You EXPECT teachers to give formative tests?  You think this is Groton, where the old classics are beaten into kids heads because it’s good for them?

This is a response from someone with no experience in a classroom.  I’ve said this repeatedly: if there are no stakes in the game, the game isn’t worth being played.  Teachers will not give social studies the attention it deserves without some form of assessment.  It isn’t out of laziness, but rather time management: with other high-stakes tests to prepare for, social studies takes up too much time if it doesn’t “matter” in the NCLB universe.

So sorry, Harry, but this is a cop-out of an answer.  You can expect all you want, but a mandate would be more forceful, more effective, and more like how a Regent of this great state should act.

If you agree with my assessment of Regent Phillips’ response, send him an e-mail.  Be sure to say I sent you…he likes that.

So, Harry, how about a Fresca?

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This Day in History 9/7: Philo Farnsworth and the birth of Television

It’s been very busy around here, what with Hurricane Earl putting a damper on my beach vacation, the start of school and a presentation that I need to get done.  Yet today marks an anniversary worth celebrating, as well as some video worth showing to your classroom.

On September 7, 1927, Philo Farnsworth, an American inventor and scientist, sent the first all-electronic television signal through a tube called an “image dissector.” The image broadcast was nothing more than a straight line, but the developments on that early image would signal the beginning of the television age some 20 years later.  Farnsworth has often had to fight for his place among television’s great pioneers, especially his chief rivals Vladimir Zworykin and John Logie Baird

Today, many Americans recognize Farnsworth as one of television’s “founding fathers,” so to speak.

The video we share shows how early television affected national and world events.  It is highlights of NBC’s coverage of the 1948 Presidential election between incumbent Harry Truman and Republican challenger Thomas Dewey.  Clearly, this video can be saved for civics/government lessons to show how political coverage has changed over the decades.

Beyond the obvious differences in picture and voice, take note of the recording quality for your students.  Early television was always live, broadcast on a kinoscope for immediate viewing.  To record anything, you had to point a movie camera in front of the television set to record the program.  It wouldn’t be until the mid-1950s when producers like Desi Arnaz pioneered the practice of filming television broadcasts as if they were movies–this is why reruns of I Love Lucy and other shows of the time appear so crisp and sharp.

Have fun, and enjoy the beginning of school.

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