We Need a Better Social Studies Curriculum in NY

Dear Readers,

As you may or may not know, the NY State Department of Ed recently released a draft proposal of a new 9-12 Social Studies curriculum.  While there is some stuff in it that pushes Social Studies in a positive new direction, overall, I found the document quite troubling as a teacher, citizen, and historian.  You can read my full explanation here. Along with Andy Snyder, a fellow National Board Certified Social Studies Teacher of fifteen years at School of the Future, we have decided to organize strong feedback and potential resistance to the state by creating the group Insightful Social Studies.  Below, you’ll see our statement of purpose and organization.  We hope you’ll agree and join us, and you can read the growing number of voices expressing their concerns on our blog.

If you share my concerns, you can find the proposed draft, fill out the state’s feedback survey (due Friday night), and sign our petition.  After doing that, we would love to add your voice to the Insightful Social Studies blog (you can send me your piece).  And of course, please forward this email widely. Maybe together we can transform a stumbling block into a stepping stone.

In Solidarity,

Steve

Our long term goal as teachers is to better help students learn to make sense of our shared situations in our society via meaningful social studies instruction that focuses on powerful and relevant questions, deep consideration of crucial issues, and authentic civic engagement.

Our current struggle is to spark an effective resistance to the laundry list approach to social studies standards provided by the current draft NYS Social Studies Framework and thereby to build greater support for meaningful social studies.

Our strategy is to mount a small public education campaign that gathers support to begin again on social studies standards in NY state – either via radical revision of the framework, the Regents rejecting the proposed framework, or through the construction of a parallel teacher-led Social Studies standards framework.  We are looking to form a group of teachers and allies who will develop, adopt and hold themselves accountable to an alternative framework should the state fail to improve the current framework.

We want to see three main things in any adopted curricular framework:

  1. The framework should emphasize questions, not answers.
  2. The framework should emphasize transformative depth rather than useless breadth.
  3. The framework should provide the freedom for schools and teachers to choose from a menu of paths and emphases to best serve their students.
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