Kudos to the editorial board for supporting U.S. History as a high school graduation requirement [“Make civics top school priority,” Editorial, May 31]. “Teaching history and government in public schools must be based on a common-sense consensus about which facts to explore and how to put them in context in a nonpartisan way” was the most meaningful message.
This should include students being able to understand and articulate opposing sides of significant issues, adhering to the adage “truth has many faces.” As a retired teacher, I realize that failure to acknowledge the validity of other points of view in all aspects of life is at the core of our current paralysis in many areas.
— Fred Barnett, Lake Grove
“If you can cut the people off from their history,” warned Karl Marx, “then they can be easily persuaded.” In the United States, we have been doing this for years by diminishing classroom time and resources for social studies in favor of skills development in reading and math, which have been judged as more “employable.” Civics has also suffered more from “textbook wars,” where the default often became no text, leaving more money for other priorities.
The general population, especially our young, is thus cut off from a coherent context and is ready prey to the lies and misinformation of charlatans. We must consider “citizen” to be a primary “job” and prepare students for it as we do others.
— Brian Kelly, Rockville Centre
Your editorial was spot on. As it said, social studies is comprised of U.S. History and Government, and Global History and Geography. These are more than a set of dates, names and places. They are the stories of people, their struggles and triumphs, and their quest for freedom through the promise of democracy. By studying ways that people strive to get along with one another, through civics, there can be conversation rather than conflict.
When the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” I believe he knew that it begins with knowledge, understanding, and then nonviolent action. In our wonderful but divided country, we need the social studies now more than ever, and teachers who light the fire of learning for our youth, who are our future.
— Susan Scalone, Shoreham
As a social studies teacher, it was disheartening to learn of the state’s plan to downgrade the significance of social studies in the assessments of public schools [“Concern over social studies,” News, May 30].
For most of my 38 years as an educator, the state wisely mandated four years of social studies in high school, keeping the subject part of the core academic disciplines. Sadly, in recent years, the state seems to be drifting toward downplaying the subject’s importance.
This trend will not serve our democracy well. We study history to learn from the past, which enables an educated citizenry, the lifeblood of a genuine democracy, to repeat successes while avoiding pitfalls.
For students residing in a diverse nation, in an increasingly interdependent world, studying Global History and U.S. History, as well as government and economics, is critical. James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution, asserted, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
This is absolutely the wrong time to disarm our young people of the knowledge that is vital to effective citizenship. Downplaying social studies will do exactly that.
— Carolyn Faggioni, Bellmore
The New York State Education Department insists there should be no cause for alarm at its “pause” in the inclusion of scores from these civics exams in its academic ratings of high schools. Does it think there’s a “pause” on: risks to democracies, wars, attacks on people who differ from the majority, world poverty and pandemics, existential threats like climate change and the use of nuclear weapons?
Shall we take a “pause” on: distinguishing fact from opinion, making cogent arguments based on reliable data, engaging in civil discourse, identifying problems and possible solutions and the values that underlie them? All of these topics and skills — and more — are explored in these classes.
Our current educational evaluation system sends a clear message: What is not tested (and the scores that go unpublished) need not be taught. A conspiracy theorist might read this decision as a purposeful measure to keep its populace ignorant and compliant because it’s hard to imagine that the Education Department wants to see the same result at the secondary level for students on the cusp of voting.
— Andrea S. Libresco, Mineola
More than a century has passed since George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
History is only one component of social studies, along with economics, government and geography, to name a few. To downgrade its importance, even temporarily, is playing into the hands of the anti-woke factions in New York as well as the rest of the country.
To me, being “woke” is simply being aware of your surroundings, especially what got you here. In other words, your history and the history of the nation, if not the world.
“Temporary” removal of an academic program is likely no more than a precursor to permanent removal.
We learn from our mistakes, and to not teach the mistakes of history and government as an important part of education will undoubtedly condemn us to repeat those mistakes.
— Michael Zisner, Bethpage
The study of history is not just dates that one Googles. Every day when we wake up, what happened yesterday is history. Looking back at our ancestors, learning about the eras that our grandparents and parents lived in helps our students understand their present world and how they can change the future they will live in. Downgrading history, even temporarily, is a mistake. I fear that temporary will become permanent.
— Jim Swike. Sayville
The writer is an adjunct history professor at Suffolk County Community College.
The lack of understanding of how our government operates among many young people I speak with is remarkable.
All high school students should have to take a one-semester course to prepare them for the final, which is the same exam people longing to become citizens must pass.
Understanding how our government works would go a long way to taking the power away from those who spread misinformation about who has power in federal government.
— Scott Schubert, Dix Hills
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