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Alan Singer

Alan Singer

Posted: June 23, 2010 05:24 PM

New York Cancels History

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And we Yankees all chuckled when the Texas State Board of Education dictated that social studies teachers had to present an even more right-wing version of the past. Now the New York State Board of Regents, the governing body that overseas education in the state, has done Texas one better (or worse) and canceled the teaching of history in grades K-8.

Oh, yes, history will still nominally be part of the curriculum, but student knowledge of history and their use of analytical skills and historical reasoning will no longer be assessed, so teachers and principals hard-pressed to raise test scores and earn bonuses can now concentrate on the rote learning of math and reading skills - the hell with content, context, and citizenship.

Texas schoolchildren my be required to learn that the words "separation of church and state" aren't in the Constitution and evaluate whether the United Nations undermines U.S. sovereignty, but they will be ahead of New York State children who will never hear about either the Constitution or the United Nations.

The New York State Board of Regents blamed the elimination of the 5th and 8th grade social studies assessments on budget cuts, inflation, the increased cost of testing vendor contracts, and the need for more test security. But the real reason for the elimination of history in the classroom is the pressure to achieve No Child Left Behind standards and participate in President Obama's Race to the Bottom. The No Child Left Behind act requires that the State Education Department develop and administer tests in English language arts and mathematics for grades 3-8 and grades 4 and 8 science tests. The grades 5 and 8 social studies tests are not required by either federal program, so history was abandoned.

In the name of cost cutting and lower standards to reach federal norms, New York State will also eliminate a number of foreign language exams for students with limited English proficiency and January and August exams for students who need to retake them to qualify for diplomas.

The Dixie Chicks raised a political stir when they criticized fellow Texan George Bush for his militaristic policies. Maybe Simon and Garfunkel should take a page from their protest book and refuse to sing in their home state until the New York Board of Regents restores history to the curriculum.