Should Student Volunteerism be Voluntary?

Alan Singer, Hofstra University

     In his November 19, 1863, address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS, 2013) expands on this notion of democracy as government by the people by specifically endorsing student activism. According to the framework:

“Civics is not limited to the study of politics and society; it also encompasses participation in classrooms and schools, neighborhoods, groups, and organizations . . . In civics, students learn to contribute appropriately to public processes and discussions of real issues. Their contributions to public discussions may take many forms, ranging from personal testimony to abstract arguments. They will also learn civic practices such as voting, volunteering, jury service, and joining with others to improve society. Civics enables students not only to study how others participate, but also to practice participating and taking informed action themselves” (p. 31).

     The NCSS C3 framework is also rooted in John Dewey’s progressive educational philosophy that is concerned with the need to educate people for life in a democratic society. Key concepts for Dewey were experience, freedom, community, and “habits of mind.” Dewey believed that there was an “organic connection between education and experience”; that effective teachers are able to connect the subject matter to the existing experience of students and then expand and enrich their lives with new experiences.

     According to Dewey, students learn from the full spectrum of their experiences in school, not just the specific thing they are studying in class. They learn from what they are studying, how they are studying, who they are studying with, and how they are treated. In racially segregated or academically tracked classes, students learn that some people are better than others. In teacher-centered classrooms, they learn that some people possess knowledge and others passively receive it. When teachers have total control over classrooms, even when they are benevolent or entertaining, students learn to accept authoritarianism. When schools remain isolated from communities and exist to rank and stratify the student body, students learn to seek individual rewards and ignore the needs of others; values that are the antithesis of democratic citizenship.

     During his career, John Dewey continually examined the experiences educators need to create for students so they become active participants in preserving and expanding government of, by, and for the people. For Dewey, the exercise of freedom in democratic  societies always involves education. He identifies freedom with “power to frame purposes” or achieve individual and social goals. This kind of freedom requires a probing, critical, disciplined “habit of mind.” It includes intelligence, judgment, and self-control – qualities students never acquire in classrooms where they are subject to external controls and are forced to remain silent. In schools that use a Deweyan approach, students engage in long-term thematic group projects, where they learn to collectively solve problems, and classrooms become democratic communities where “things gain meaning by being used in a shared experience or joint action.” If Dewey is right, students only learn about democracy and the values of citizenship in classrooms where they experience them. They only learn to take responsibility for society, when schools engage them in taking responsibility.

     Because of my understanding of Lincoln’s view of democracy and Dewey’s ideas on learning, I am arguing, in a way, against the basic concept of volunteerism, that it be voluntary. I am suggesting that active involvement in community affairs by students must be a basic educational requirement and integrated throughout the social studies curriculum. But I want to take this proposal even one step further.

     Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator, was born in Recife in northeastern Brazil where his ideas about education developed in response to military dictatorship, enormous social inequality, and widespread adult illiteracy. As a result, his primary pedagogical goal was to provide the world’s poor and oppressed with educational experiences that make it possible for them to take control over their own lives. Freire shared John Dewey’s desire to stimulate students to become “agents of curiosity” in a “quest for . . . . the ‘why’ of things” and his belief that education provides possibility and hope for the future of society. But he believed that these can only be achieved when students are engaged in explicitly critiquing social injustice and actively organizing to challenge oppression.

     For Freire, education is a process of continuous group discussion that enables people to acquire collective knowledge they can use to change society. The role of the teacher includes asking questions that help students identify problems facing their community, working with students to discover ideas that explain their life experiences, and encouraging analysis of prior experiences and of society as the basis for new academic understanding and social action.

     This concept of active education as preparation for political activism and active citizenship is not unique to Paulo Freire. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is their natural manure.” Thomas Jefferson believed that freedom and republican government rest on two basic principles: “the diffusion of knowledge among the people” and the idea that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” Jefferson supported the right to rebel because he recognized that the world was constantly changing. The crucial question was not whether it would change, but the direction of change. Education was essential so that ordinary citizens could participate in this process, defending and enhancing their liberties.

     In the United States, there has frequently been a close connection between advocacy for mass public education and demands for  expanding democracy, social equity, and political reform. For example, in the mid-19th century, Horace Mann championed public education because he believed that the success of the country depended on “intelligence and virtue in the masses of the people.” He argued that, “If we do not prepare children to become good citizens,… then our republic must go down to destruction.”

     John Dewey saw himself within this intellectual tradition. He believed that democratic movements for human liberation were necessary to achieve a fair distribution of political power and an “equitable system of human liberties.”

     As a high school social studies teacher, I promoted transformative goals through direct student involvement in social action projects as part of New York State’s “Participation in Government” curriculum. In New York City, periodic budget crises, ongoing racial and ethnic tension, and the need for social programs in poor communities provided numerous opportunities to encourage students to become active citizens. Class activities included sponsoring student forums on controversial issues, such as requiring parental consent before a teenager can have an abortion, preparing reports on school finances and presenting them as testimony at public hearings, writing position papers for publication in local newspapers, and organizing student and community support for a school-based public health clinic.

     During each activity, social studies goals included making reasoned decisions based on an evaluation of existing evidence, researching issues and presenting information in writing and on graphs, exploring the underlying ideas that shape our points of view, giving leadership by example to other students, and taking collective and individual responsibility for the success of programs. The following are excerpts from a speech presented by a student in my Participation in Government class at a public hearing organized by the New York Pro-Choice Coalition and from an opinion editorial written by students and printed in New York Newsday on January 14, 1990.

     In her speech, a student wrote: “I think it is a good idea to talk to your parents about a pregnancy and an abortion. But I also understand that you may not be able to do this. Some teenagers are afraid to tell their parents. Some teenagers have good reasons why they cannot tell them . . . A law cannot take a distant relationship and make it a close one. That’s why there are hot lines to call and all sorts of counselors, so that a pregnant teenager does not end up boxed into a corner unable to get out . . . My mom has said to me, “If you make mistakes in your life, you are the one who has to live with them. But always remember that I am here for you.” I think all teenagers should be able to talk with their parents. I wish all parents were like my mom, but I know that it’s not that way. That’s why I am fighting against parental consent and parental notification laws.”

     The op-ed piece, a collective effort, said: “The members of the Forum Club strongly disagree with the behavior of some of the prochoice demonstrators at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. We believe that it was uncalled for and inexcusable to disrupt the mass and interfere with communion. We believe that the demonstrators who entered the church were wrong and hurt the ability of the pro-choice movement to win people over to our ideas on human freedom and the rights of Americans.

     However, we also believe that the newspaper coverage of events on that day misrepresented the pro-choice movement. Out of 5,000 people who demonstrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on that day, only 43 were arrested inside the church. Furthermore, only one person disrupted Holy Communion.

     Meanwhile, the media buried reports about another demonstration that took place on the same day. In New Jersey, 125 members of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group, were arrested at a health clinic. They had blocked the entrance to the clinic to prevent women from choosing to have safe and legal abortions. Six of these demonstrators had chained themselves together.

     We believe that on this Sunday, both the pro-choice and anti-abortion groups did things that violated the rights of other Americans. What we don’t understand is why the pro-choice group was singled out for the harsher criticism.”

     These activities represent a very different concept of volunteerism, a concept with deep roots in educational theory and the United States’ democratic heritage. Implementing this approach is not simple. It means combating resistance from school boards and parents. But if John Dewey and Thomas Jefferson are right, and I think they are, it is the best way to insure the habits of mind that are the goals of volunteerism and essential for the preservation and expansion of a democratic society.

References

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. NY: Macmillan.

Dewey, J. (1938/1963). Experience and education. NY: Collier/Macmillan.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. NY: Seabury.

Freire, P. (1995). Pedagogy of hope. NY: Continuum.

Singer, A. (2014). Social Studies for Secondary Schools (Routledge).

Conscientious Educators Under Fire

Charles P. Howlett & Patricia Howlett                                              [Excerpted with Permission from Peace & Change, 44 (2), 169-206]

     On matters of teacher loyalty and conscience, World War I marked a legal watershed in the United States. During this conflict, schools became seminaries of patriotism and teachers had to promote loyalty and allegiance to the government. On the local level, the New York State Legislature passed a 1917 law mandating that teachers would be subject to dismissal for “the utterance of any treasonable or seditious word” and even created a commission to hear and examine complaints about “seditious” textbooks in subjects like civics, history, economics, and English literature. In elementary schools, teachers were instructed to teach the themes of patriotism, heroism, and sacrifice as well as learning about the differences between German autocracy and the American democratic way of life.

     New York City, the nation’s largest school system, became the flash point for conflict over conscience. One Board of Education member, General Thomas Wingate, displaying the bluntness of a drill sergeant rather than the aplomb befitting his retired military rank, proclaimed in the New York Times that “It is time to read the riot act to some of these teachers . . . [T]he teacher who teaches pacifism and that this country should not defend itself is a thousand times more dangerous than the teacher who gets drunk and lies in the gutter.” Despite elaborate hearings, defense counsel and all the appearances of a trial, the decision to fire teachers had been largely predetermined by the hysteria and overzealousness of the educational officials in charge of conducting the proceedings. Throughout the city’s school system, teachers were suspended, transferred to another school, or dismissed for questioning American military involvement, refusing to teach patriotism in their classes, or not taking the recently enacted loyalty oath.

    At first, the New York City Board of Education denied certificates of morality and loyalty to probationary teachers which they needed for permanent licensure and tenure. This became the backdoor method for avoiding a school hearing or trial. Anyone in the classroom who was suspected of disloyalty or sympathetic to socialist ideas or pacifism risked an investigation that would determine if they could keep their certificate. High school teachers such as Harrison C. Thomas at De Witt Clinton High School were denied their certificate even though Thomas had been classified as a conscientious objector. Because he would not enthusiastically promote Liberty Bonds with his students and  proclaimed “he would do anything but fight,” the high school committee of the Board of Education found him unfit to teach. Although not a conscientious objector, Bernard M. Parelhoff of George Washington High School was also denied his certificate “because he did not believe in teaching patriotism in the schools and had no reverence for the uniform.” Thomas and Parelhoff were just two of many teachers from city high schools, including Girls’ Commercial, Stuyvesant, Brunswick, and Julia Richman, to have their certificates not renewed.

     Teachers faced much the same on the elementary level. Alexander Fichlander of Public School 165 in Brooklyn was denied his certificate. At Public School 62, twenty-four teachers were grilled by their immediate supervisors and then their cases were referred to the board of education for a public hearing about their fitness for certification in January 1918. In all of these cases of certificates denied, no trial or hearing took place.

     A number of secondary and elementary teachers possessing licenses and accused of disloyalty resisted; they were willing to go to trial (such proceedings were classified as a hearing before school administrators and board officials, which were conducted in legal fashion with both the board’s attorney and defense counsel for the accused, so it really was a trial). One of the most notable cases occurred at De Witt Clinton High School in the northern part of The Bronx. Three teachers — Samuel Schmalhausen, Thomas Mufson, and A. Henry Schneer — were dismissed from their teaching positions. A trial was held for all three in early December 1917.

     Schmalhausen, an instructor in English, was charged with “unbecoming conduct” because he gave a writing assignment asking students to compose “a frank letter to Woodrow Wilson commenting on his conduct of the war against the government of Germany.” Schneer, a mathematics teacher, was found guilty because he insisted that if uniformed soldiers came in to address students so, too, should pacifists be invited to speak as well as his opposition to military training in schools. Mufson, also an English teacher, was accused of discussing anarchism in class and for taking a neutral position on the war — during his testimony he refused to answer any questions pertaining to active support for the war.

     After the day-long trial they were discharged, according to the City Board of Education, for “holding views subversive of good discipline and [sic] undermining good citizenship in the schools.” They were fired because of their socialist opposition to the war and alleged “radicalism”; Mufson also felt that anti-Semitism played a role since all three were Jewish.

     Whatever the precise combination of factors, school officials quickly became obedient servants to the state and followed orders. Gustave Straubenmuller, acting superintendent of the city’s schools, instructed principals to submit to his office the names of any teacher whose patriotism was questionable. Investigations throughout the city school system were rampant. Given the nationalistic climate at that moment, the superintendent had numerous supporters within the teaching ranks. Many teachers were quite vocal in demanding the dismissal of any colleague who criticized the war effort.

       One of the clearest examples occurred in December 1917, when a large contingent of   teachers gathered at the respected Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan for a “loyalty meeting.” They called for the firing of “disloyal” teachers, demanding their immediate dismissal from the classroom. The meeting concluded with teachers loudly proclaiming a loyalty pledge which stated in part: “We declare ourselves to be in sympathy with the purposes of the government and its efforts to make the world safe for democracy, and believe that our highest duty at this moment is to uphold the hands of the President and Congress in this crisis.”

     What quickly followed was the New York “Teachers Council” establishing an investigative arm to sanitize every school of “disloyal” and “unpatriotic” teachers. A questionnaire was sent to all 23,000 teachers ascertaining their beliefs about the war as well as undertaking an effort to remove from the classroom German alien teachers who had not taken out citizenship papers. Such action prompted the Teachers Union to counter with a petition opposing the signing of such loyalty pledges under compulsion. Some eighty-seven teachers endorsed it; the union also wrote President Wilson requesting that he draft a pledge, which teachers could sign “without violating their consciences.” It never materialized.

     John Dewey, sympathetic to the union’s position and seeing the rise of Prussianism at home, lashed out at the Board of Education by calling them “self-righteous patriots” who impugned other people’s loyalty. He also stated that the three teachers at De Witt Clinton were treated unfairly in being “charged with a lack of that active or aggressive loyalty which the state has a right to demand, in wartime particularly, from its paid servants.” Putting it bluntly, he referred to it as an “Inquisition.” These condemnations addressing compulsory loyalty fell on deaf ears. The momentum for total obedience continued unabated despite the 1897 New York State statute enacting tenure to protect teachers from unfair firings or political pressures. Creating a loyalty pledge provided a convenient pathway for charges “unbecoming a teacher” as allowed under the governing tenure statute.

     America going to war created an inconvenient truth for teachers when it came to matters of conscience. One of the earliest victims in this regard was Brooklyn elementary teacher Miss Fannie Ross of Public School 88; she was benched for six months. On December 27, 1917, according to the Flushing Evening Journal, Ross “had been found guilty of opposing the draft and of having used her influence against military enlistment.” As reported in the education journal, School and Society“It was charged that while acting as a census agent, she advised persons not to enlist in the military service, and induced them to claim exemption and that she was opposed to the drafting of men to wage war against the German government, and openly approved of the action of persons who refused to render military service.” However, after her hearing before the Committee on Elementary Schools, though found guilty of the charges, it “expressed the opinion that her utterances were tactless and not made in a spirit of disloyalty.” She accepted her suspension without pay.

     A German-born elementary schoolteacher, also from Brooklyn, became a clear-cut victim of legal injustice in the chapel of patriotic obedience. Unlike Ross, she was not so fortunate to keep her job. Gertrude Pignol, was fired after  a Board of Education hearing on May 7, 1918, on the grounds of “conduct unbecoming of a teacher,” an all too familiar and hard to overcome charge. Pignol immigrated to the United States from Germany when she herself was school aged and in 1911 applied for U.S. citizenship. A strong critic of German autocracy, she taught German and French at Brooklyn Manual for twelve years. In the fall of 1917, amid the patriotic hysteria sweeping the city schools she came under fire when an anonymous letter written by zealous teachers was sent to the board of education accusing her of being proGerman. In the spring of 1918, after she told her principal that she did not support U.S. military involvement but kept her personal beliefs to herself. She never once spoke about it to her students, yet her fate was nevertheless sealed. As evidence of her so-called “disloyalty,” disciplinary charges were brought against her for “wearing a locket engraved by her father and having a picture of the Kaiser’s grandfather on one side and the cornflower on the other.”

     Pignol could have challenged her dismissal in a court of law. This was a teacher’s last resort if the Commissioner did not overturn the school board’s ruling. Some dismissed teachers did file a claim in court, but the time and expense made this course of action prohibitive to most. When considering the wartime climate of opinion, moreover, the chances were most unlikely that a sympathetic judge or jury would rule in favor of the dismissed teacher. Still, there were a few teachers who chose to take their case to court in the name of conscience and to stand up to the loyalty craze. One of the most famous cases in this regard was the dismissal of Phi Beta Kappa, Swarthmore College graduate, and Quaker Mary Stone McDowell from Brooklyn’s Manual Training High School, the same high school as Pignol. When she refused to take the loyalty oath because of her Quaker faith, school officials promptly gave her a hearing and then fired her anyway. Little consideration was given to the right to conscience claimed by the Society of Friends’ religious opposition to war. Grounds for her dismissal in terms of insubordination were that she turned over her homeroom responsibilities for participation in student fundraising for the war and leading students in the pledge of allegiance to another teacher while she remained respectfully silent as well as not joining in supporting the teachers’ loyalty pledge formulated by the “Teachers Council.”

     McDowell, encouraged by attorneys for the New York Religious Society of Friends, chose to challenge her dismissal in state court, but she lost. Ironically, the reason she lost was because her attorneys, believing that this case was of such great magnitude in terms of religious freedom, decided to bypass the normal appeals process with the state Commissioner of Education and, instead, sought immediate relief in the state courts. The court ruled that she should have first appealed to the commissioner as part of the established due process procedure before filing suit. When they did take her case to the Commissioner, he also stood by the board’s decision. Her counsel then chose not to file a brief in the Court of Appeals, perhaps because no procedural error could be found meriting a review of the lower court ruling; the tactical strategy her attorneys employed bypassing established state education department procedures in such matters involving teacher discipline ultimately backfired. Her legal challenge, nonetheless, was the first case in American history involving the issue of religious  freedom in public education that went to a state court.

     To a certain extent, the anti-preparedness efforts of pacifist-socialist Brooklyn schoolteacher Jessie Wallace Hughan made teachers prime targets for loyalty zealots. Before the United States entered the conflict, Hughan was active in speaking out against the war. When the war first broke out she joined forces with other female pacifists Tracy Mygatt and Frances Witherspoon to initiate a number of peace groups that joined pacifism, Christianity, and socialist politics. In 1915, she organized the AntiEnlistment League, which enrolled 3,500 men who were willing to sign a declaration against military enlistment. After the country entered the war and three of her students signed an AntiEnlistment pledge, Hughan immediately became the subject of intense investigation by the city board of education for her antiwar activities. Fired up by the Wilson administration’s call for loyalty in schools her superintendent proclaimed, “We expect to bring before the Board of Education a resolution that will put a stop to Miss Hughan’s utterances and to those other teachers who have adopted a similar attitude.”

     Hughan was not intimidated. She insisted that as long as she separated her role as teacher from her actions as a citizen she was free to express her position on matters related to war and social injustice — the same defense Pignol raised to no avail. “The whole question it seems to me,” she vigorously argued, “centers not about war or peace, but about the right of an individual to express a personal opinion in public . . . I has never expressed my views in the school in which I teach and have never spoken as a teacher. So I cannot have been ‘taking advantage of my position as a teacher.’” Despite tremendous pressure from the local press, public, and school board Hughan was not dismissed because her actions occurred prior to American entrance into the war. However, it was her case that “was partly responsible for the [subsequent legislation on loyalty] that enabled New York school boards to fire teachers, such as Pignol and McDowell, who did not fully endorse the war effort.”

    In the years right after the war, fear and suspicion among teachers regarding the demands of state continued, with New York as its flashpoint. On March 26, 1919, the state legislature established a joint committee of six under the chairmanship of Senator Clayton R. Lusk. Although created as an investigating and not prosecuting body, this committee went out of its way to sponsor two new school laws. The first required a loyalty oath of all teachers and compelled any educators deemed guilty of advocating “a form of government other than the government of the United States or of this state” be removed from the classroom. In taking this oath, a teacher swore “that I am, have been and will be loyal and obedient to the government of this State and of the United States; that I have not while a citizen of the United States advocated, either by word of mouth or in writing, a form of government other than the government of the United States and of this State, nor have I advocated, either by word of mouth or in writing, a change in the form of government of the united States or of this State by force, violence or any unlawful means.” The second law required all private schools to be licensed by the state education department and stipulated that no license be granted to any school “where it shall appear that the instruction proposed to be given including the teaching of the doctrine that organized governments shall be overthrown by force, violence or unlawful means.” It was only  after Al Smith became governor that these laws were repealed. “I firmly believe,” Smith proclaimed, “that I am vindicating the principle that, within the limits of the penal law, every citizen may speak and teach what he believes.”

     Between the world wars, numerous states, including New York, required schoolteachers to sign an allegiance pledge supporting the Constitution of the United States. The residual effects of the war’s patriotic impulse, apart from the imposition of newly enacted loyalty oaths, also resonated long after the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. Teachers were still being held accountable for their remarks and positions on war and peace. Again, New York took center stage. A teacher in Public School 83 in New York City, Louis Jacobs, had been drafted but because of his conscientious scruples was declared “a sincere objector by the Board of Inquiry, and had been furloughed to the Friends’ Reconstruction Union [Unit] for service in Russia.” His conscientious objection to war made no difference in the eyes of Superintendent William Ettinger. His reinstatement was denied in 1919 on the grounds that the Superintendent “deemed him unfit for further teaching once the War was over.” On May 28, 1919, Louis H. Blumenthal of Public School 148 in Brooklyn was officially terminated “because as a conscientious objector to war, he refused to enter the Army.” Morris High School German and Spanish teacher Fritz A.H. Leuchs, in one of the strangest cases, was originally suspended on October 30, 1918, right after he decided to enlist in the Army. He was officially tried after the war for “unbecoming conduct” — sympathy for Germany, avoiding assemblies involving the flag salute, and lack of participation in War Savings Stamps and Liberty Bond drives. At his trial, the New York Times reported, “he appeared in the uniform of a United States soldier and showed his honorable discharge from the army. The only thing that he did not deny was that he had tried to enter the German army as a non-combatant before the war was declared by the United States.” The charges for dismissal were not upheld, his suspension removed, and his reinstatement immediately went into effect. Because of hostility expressed toward him by fellow teachers, he was transferred to another school due to his perceived lack of “respect to the war programme at Morris.” English teacher Garibaldi LaPolla, at De Witt Clinton High, the focal point of numerous investigations, and Stuyvesant High history teacher Charles Hamm found themselves scrutinized for possible dismissal in 1922 because four years earlier they “signed a letter . . . urging that men with conscientious scruples against killing be permitted to serve in noncombatant work.” In 1922, history teacher Simon Goldblum, again from De Witt Clinton, had to defend himself “because of a reputed remark in 1918 that reports of German atrocities had been exaggerated.”

References:

Beale, H. (1936). Are American teachers free? Washington DC: American Historical Association.

Dewey, J. (1917). “Public education on trial,” New Republic 13. Ekirch, A. (1969). The decline of American liberalism. New York: Athenaeum.

Howlett, P. and Howlett, C. (2008, August). “A Silent Witness for Peace: The Case of Schoolteacher Mary Stone McDowell and America at War,” History of Education Quarterly 48(3). 

Kennedy, K. (1999). Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens: Women and Subversion during World War 1. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,

Keyishian v. Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York (January 23, 1967), http://www.tedford-herbeck-freespeech.com/keyishian.html.

New York Times (February 22, 1919). “Find Teacher Is Loyal: charges made against Fritz A.H. Leuchs dismissed.”

New York Tribune (December 17, 1917). “Loyal teachers urge internment of the disloyal.”

Peterson, H. and Fite, G. (1957). Opponents of War, 1917-1918. Seattle: University of Washington.

Pierce, B. (1926). Public Opinion and the Teaching of History in the United States. New York: Knopf.

School and Society V (April 28, 1917).

School and Society VI (December 8, 1917).

School and Society VII (January 12, 1918).

Purpose Matters in Teaching: Leveraging Purpose to Transform Teaching and Learning

Todd S. Hawley, Kent State University; Michael Levicky, Kent State University; and Adam W. Jordan College of Charleston

     To be a teacher today is to be confronted with the constant pressure to both defend the work you do in your classroom and to advocate for the ways schools improve the lives of students and families in local communities. The reality is that in many political spaces the very institution of public education itself is under attack. This can be seen from the ideology of Betsy DeVos on the Right to pro-charter advocates like Cory Booker on the Left. Add to this recent attempts by state governments and textbook companies to mute the power of social studies teachers, we argue that rationale-based, purposeful practice matters now perhaps more than ever. Research has demonstrated ways social studies teachers can improve their practice by explicitly and systematically developing the purposes that guide their everyday practices and decisionmaking (Jordan, Jordan, & Hawley, 2017). By first making their purposes visible, teachers can begin to enact those purposes in engaging, thoughtful ways. Having a systematically articulated rationale can serve as the foundation for teacher decision-making and empower social studies teachers to feel more professionally confident, thus establishing classroom choices on solid ground (Hawley, Pifel, & Jordan, 2012). In this paper, we intend to offer teachers a systematic approach to analyzing their purposeful practice.

     To help prompt teachers to begin thinking about the purposes that drive their practice, we always encourage teachers to consider Todd Dinkelman’s (2009) question, “What are you teaching for?” (emphasis in original, Dinkelman, 2009, p. 91). This seemingly simple question is one that every teacher should be able to answer explicitly. A clear and articulated answer to this straightforward question has the power to serve as a foundation for purpose-based teacher decision-making. Depending on the positionality of the professor, social studies teachers are sometimes invited to formally articulate the purposes that are most important to them as teachers in their introductory methods courses. While purpose finds its way to many methods courses, however, the formal and written process of purpose articulation and analysis may not.

  Fortunately, rationale development, and rationale-based teaching, is now an emerging trend with a historical foundation in social studies education (Hawley & Crowe, 2016). In considering this trend, social studies educators can serve as a strong example among their colleagues. As former teachers, and current teacher educators, we understand that how  teachers utilize their time has an influence on their continued development as professionals. Our goal within this paper is to encourage teachers to formally articulate the purposes that drive their practice, and to provide support for teachers as they articulate their rationales. We believe the formal rationale development process holds the potential to empower teacher agency and advocacy by expertly articulating priorities of their practice. With that, we hope this paper succinctly outlines the formal rationale development process and also serves as a tool for teacher self-empowerment.

Purposeful Versus Neutral: Why Purpose Matters in Social Studies Teaching

     While working with social studies teachers on the process of articulating and developing their purposes, we routinely hear concerns about remaining neutral and being unbiased. We understand these concerns. Too often today, policy-makers are more concerned with value-added outcomes than in developing engaged citizens. We know teachers face pressures to stick to pacing guides and to teach to the test. We also recognize and honor the fact that there is a strong group of teachers working “against the grain” (Cochran-Smith, 2004). The rationale development process is designed to inspire those who feel pressure to follow a script and to begin teaching against the grain.

     Teaching with purpose does not mean to teach with selfish intent. We are not advocating that teachers start class by telling students about their political stance on key issues, then moving into a lesson focused on historical facts and dates. At the same time, we know that purposeful social studies teaching and learning is never neutral, nor could it be. In our vision of rationale-based practice, a social studies teacher is teaching students to confront racism while exploring persistent social issues as part of a U.S. History, Economics, Government, or Sociology course. As part of enacting the purposes that guide their work, social studies teachers turn to their rationale and make pedagogical decisions that are intentional. These pedagogical decisions are not made to simply present all sides of an issue, but to create spaces for students to engage with social studies content in complex ways that lead to deeper thinking and deliberation, while recognizing the role they can play in developing a more just society when coupled with intentional social action.

     Purposeful practice has a long history in social studies, and current research supports the development of a teaching rationale to support purposeful practice in social studies classrooms (Hawley, 2012). Stanley (2005) examined the debate over the purpose of social studies teaching and learning as “transmission versus transformation” (p. 282). Barr, Barth and Shermis (1977) developed three traditions that have historically characterized social studies teaching: Citizenship Transmission, Social Studies as a Social Science and Reflective Inquiry. Finally, Westheimer and Kahn’s (2004) research into approaches to citizenship education found in social studies classrooms, outlined three types: Personally Responsible Citizenship, Participatory Citizenship and Justice-Oriented Citizenship.

    According to the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) (1994), “the primary purpose of social studies is to help young people make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world” (para. 3). We highlight this work to present  examples of different purposes that have been presented for teaching social studies. While we recognize that teachers might pursue a rationale that is different from the ones presented above, we are more inclined to believe that social studies teachers are committed to teaching future citizens to be active and engaged. In the remainder of the manuscript, we focus on the process of developing and articulating the purposes that guide teachers’ practices, followed by an exploration of ways to enact these purposes in powerful, engaging ways.

Making Your Purpose(s) Visible to Yourself

     The first step in the rationale development process is to make your purposes visible to yourself. We suggest using a wordwheel to brainstorm all of the ideas, thoughts, and goals you have for your work as a social studies teacher. We have included a blank version of the word-wheel for you to use and one example word web that represents versions we often see when working with teachers to articulate their purposes. In the center of the word web is the question that started this article, “What are you teaching Social Studies for?” From here teachers can use the attached thought bubbles to articulate their answers to the central question.

     In the example word-web, we have provided responses that are characteristic of teachers who worked through this exercise for the first time. “I love History”; “To solve problems”; “Prepare students to be good people”; “So students don’t embarrass themselves when asked questions about US History”; “Answer difficult questions”; “My students are the future.” These initial responses are common, and are a great place to start. After working on an initial word-wheel, we ask teachers to explain how these initial purposes can help them engage students in their social studies classes. For example, how does loving history or having a desire to prepare students to answer difficult questions lead to engaging teaching and learning? When pressed, teachers expand their thinking to explain that their love of history is more than just a love of facts. Rather, their love of history translates into a love of thinking historically and learning through history to make better decisions and to recognize how social change has occurred. The same goes for wanting to teach students to be good people. In this case, teachers are expressing a desire to connect the social studies content with the habits and skills of democratic citizens to help their students learn to be engaged participatory citizens.

Exploring Your Purposes On a Deeper Level and Connecting Your Purpose(s) to Teaching in a Democratic Society

     To position teachers to expand their initial thoughts about what they are teaching social studies for, we also provide prompts designed to help teachers further consider insights and details germane to their teaching rationales. The following set of prompts and questions have been helpful for teachers to consider while writing their social studies rationale (purposes for being a social studies teacher):

1. What is your purpose or purposes for teaching social studies?

2. Discuss the influences that contributed to your thinking as you were developing your social studies rationale (influential thinkers, books, ideas, teachers/professors, artists, etc.)

3. What connections does your purpose for teaching the social studies have to living in a democratic society or teaching in a democratic classroom?

4. What curricular choices, teaching practices, and classroom experiences will you make available for your future students based on your purpose?

5. How will you make future students, administrators, and parents aware of the purposes that guide your curriculum choices and teaching practices as a social studies teacher?

What? Why? How?

    In pushing to expand teacher thinking about how their purposes for teaching social studies connects with democratic citizenship, we discuss the “Developing a Rationale for Social Studies” Venn Diagram. This Venn Diagram is designed to provide a visual representation of how a rationale for teaching social studies is related to both Ideas and Action in teaching. Additionally, the Venn-Diagram also demonstrates how a rationale can assist teachers as they work to bring together their course curriculum with their teaching practice. Finally, it introduces the idea of the “What? Why? How?” Framework. The “What? Why? How?” Framework is designed to enable teachers to make necessary connections between theory and practice, as well as connections between their work as a curriculum developer and their teaching as a practitioner. As a framework, What? helps define aims for teachers and students. Why? requires teachers to make and  share value judgements with students. How? engages teachers and students in taking action to collaborate and learn together. This positions the Venn-Diagram as an overlapping, infinite and recursive loop that demonstrates how social studies teachers can continuously consider the purposes of their rationale throughout their career whether they are just beginning or are an experienced veteran educator. In this respect the Venn-Diagram becomes a tool to develop, reflect and alter “What?” they want to teach and have students do, “Why?” they want to teach specific content, habits and skills and, “How?” they plan on teaching to accomplish the “What?”.

     After discussing the “Developing a Rationale for Social Studies” Venn Diagram, teachers can begin the work of connecting their purpose with their planning and practice. To make this initial leap, teachers should develop their own responses in the “What? Why? How?” Framework. The diagram and framework are designed to give teachers a clear sense of the many ways their purpose is connected to everything they do in their classes and how they can work toward integrating their purpose into their teaching. The following diagram and framework provides an example from U.S. History focused on teaching students about the Black Codes. The chart focuses on both the What? Why? And How? as related to both Course Curriculum and Topics and Teaching Practices and Activities.

U.S. History Example What? Why? How? Chart

Conclusion: Pulling it all Together, Rationale Development and Purposeful Practice

     Social studies teachers face multiple demands on their time and attention. These demands take the form of increasing levels of accountability, pressures to teach to the test and to demonstrate the value of their teaching as connected to their students’ learning. At the same time, social studies teachers have the opportunity to honor their students’ lived experiences while preparing them to be active, engaged, and participatory citizens. Fortunately, teachers still have the freedom to make content and pedagogical choices that benefit their students (Evans, 2012). We agree with Thornton (2006), who argued that “teachers’ purposes matter more and in a different way from assembling a standardized product.”(p. 418). We believe that social studies teachers can improve their practice by developing and being explicit about the purposes that guide their decisionmaking by engaging the question prompts and other tools offered in this piece toward rationale development. Despite the pressures to conform and simply teach to the test, social studies teachers have the opportunity to articulate a rationale for their work, and in doing so, transform their practice, engage students on a deeper level and bring meaning to their work.

References

Barr, R. D., Barth, J. L., & Shermis, S. S. (1977). Defining the social studies. Bulletin #51. Arlington, VA: National Council for the Social Studies.

Cochran-Smith, M. (2004). Walking the Road: Race, Diversity, and Social Justice in Teacher Education. New York: NY, Teachers College Press.

Dinkelman, T. D. (2009). Reflection and Resistance: Challenges of Rationale-based Teacher Education. Journal of Inquiry and Action in Education, 2(1), 91-108.

Evans, R. (2012). The Tragedy of American School Reform: How Curriculum Politics and Entrenched Dilemmas Have Diverted Us from Democracy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hawley, T. S. (2012). Purpose as content and pedagogy: Rationale-development as a core theme of social studies teacher education. Journal of Inquiry and Action in Education, 4(3), 1-17.

Hawley, T. S., & Crowe, A. R. (2016). Making their own path: Pre-service teachers’ development of purpose in social studies. Theory and Research in Social Education, 44(3), 416447.

Hawley, T. S., Pifel, R. A., & Jordan, A. W. (2012). Structure, citizenship, and professionalism: Exploring rationale development with experienced social studies teachers. Journal of Social Studies Research, 36(3), 168-189.

Jordan, A. W., Jordan, K. H., & Hawley, T. S. (2017). Purpose and passion: The rationales of public alternative educators. Journal of Social Studies Research, 41, 263-273. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jssr.2017.01.004.

National Council for the Social Studies (1994). Expectations of excellence: Curriculum Teaching Social Studies: Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer-Fall 2019 21 standards for social studies. Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies. Retrieved from https://www.socialstudies.org/standards/introduc tion.

Stanley, W. (2005). Social Studies and the Social Order: Transmission or Transformation? Social Education, 69(5), 282-286.

Thornton, S. J. (2006). What matters most for gatekeeping? A Response to VanSledright. Theory & Research in Social Education, 34(3), 416-418.

Westheimer, J., & Kahn, J. (2004). What kind of citizen? The politics of educating for democracy. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 237-269.

The Importance of Teaching Financial Literacy in Middle Schools

 by Hank Bitten, NJCSS Executive Director

The new state mandate to teach financial literacy in middle schools was passed on January 3, 2019 and becomes required instruction in September. The law passed 38-0 in our State Senate and 76-1 in the New Jersey Assembly. The most likely reason for an almost unanimous vote is the multiple financial crises affecting all income areas of residents in our state. Although New Jersey has the fifth highest per capita income in the United States at $67,609 and some of the highest property values, residents are struggling with debt at $62,300 per capita.

Figure 1: Per capita personal income in the United States in 2018, by state (in U.S. dollars) (https://www.statista.com/statistics/303555/us-per-capita-personal-income/  )

Reasons for the New Financial Literacy Law

The alarm was sounded by a report in July 2014 from the Federal Reserve Bank that perhaps 52% of Americans have less than $400 in emergency savings: “Only 48 percent of respondents said that they would completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money.”

Although statistics can be distorted, they are still important and helpful. The data supports the need for financial education in grades K-12. Retirement savings are low and almost non-existent by younger workers, identified as “Millennials” (1980-2000) who are likely the parents of our students. According to a 2019 survey by Merrill Lynch 7 out of 10 millennials ages 18-34 received financial support from their parents in the last year. The primary reason for this is personal debt.

As a retired baby boomer, I remember when

• the owner of the corner grocery store would total the prices on a paper bag

• my parents received S&H green stamps as a reward for shopping

• my grandparents did not have a checking account and kept their savings in the basement

• only male students on my college campus had credit cards

• leaving school during my lunch hour to bring my pay check to the bank.

Financial matters were simpler, the line to deposit or cash a check was long, and money changed hands less frequently than it does today.

The technology of the ATM, direct deposit, PayPal, Apple Pay and a host of other fee-based services takes our money with its “invisible hand.” We are faced with up to 20 automatic deductions from our salaries within hours or days from earning it. For example, a person who uses an ATM machine with a fee of $3.00 a transaction is likely to pay more than $150 on weekly withdrawals over a year. If an organization collects $40,000 through PayPal or another provider, they will pay 2.9% per transaction or almost $1,200 in fees! New Jersey required the teaching of financial literacy K-12 in the 2009 Learning Outcomes and mandated a semester course as a requirement for high school graduation. New Jersey has 117 Learning Outcomes for teaching financial literacy in Grades K-12 in seven content areas of income and careers, money management, credit and debt, planning, saving, and investing, being a critical consumer, civic financial responsibility, and insuring and protecting.

Based on a survey of 65,000 college students administered by USA Today in 2014: “Students who took a class did better on the survey’s financial knowledge questions, were found to be more averse to debt, more likely to pay credit card bills on time, and less likely to go over their credit limit…The study, which is in its second year, is the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of high school financial literacy education on not only knowledge but attitudes and behaviors.”

The National Financial Literacy Report compiled by Champlain College (2017) identified only five states with a requirement of a ‘stand alone’ semester course and an effective curriculum that includes activities, relevance, and specific benchmarks. New Jersey received a grade of “B” while 27 states and the District of Columbia, a majority, received grades of C, D, and F.

As you will see in this report (https://www.champlain.edu/centers-of-experience/center-for-financial-literacy/report-national-high-school-financial-literacy  ), a B grade does not necessarily mean that a state requires an adequate level of instruction. The Center estimates that half of “Grade B” states allocated less than one-quarter of a half-year course in high school to personal finance topics. This means that students in 8 of these “Grade B” states received between 7 and 13 hours of personal finance instruction in four years of high school. The report identified only11 states that required 15 or more hours of personal finance education in high school.

What Does the New Financial Literacy Law Require?

The legislation mandates that students receive instruction based on the NJ Learning Outcomes for Financial Literacy (9.1) in Grades 6, 7, and 8. The new mandate does not quantify the number of hours of instruction and it specifically requires instruction in each grade level rather than a semester or year course in any one grade. Schools should embrace this as an opportunity to establish positive student behaviors and engage students in decision-making and problem solving. In a school with a curriculum focusing on the application of real life situations, students in Grades K-5 are learning to respect money and understanding how our economy functions, middle school students are applying personal financial lessons to what they are studying in social studies and math and using the tools of technology to analyze their decisions and solutions to problems, and high school students are demonstrating competence as financial planners using scenarios and presentations.

Where Should Financial Literacy be Taught?

Many districts teach financial literacy in social studies, business or family and consumer science courses, math classes, or computer technology courses. The new law suggests a fragmented approach by requiring instruction for a few days or weeks in Grades 6, 7, and 8 without identifying the courses where it will be implemented or the amount of instructional time that is appropriate. Another perspective on this limited approach is to translate five days of instruction in 40-minute periods to about three hours of instruction. The research suggests that effective instruction is best taught in a semester course with 15 or more hours of instruction. There are currently 58 mandated Learning Outcomes for teaching financial literacy in Grades 6-8 and if one class period was allocated for each Learning Outcome, students would need over 30 hours of instruction, instead of 9 hours over three years! The National Financial Literacy Report is critical of instruction that is limited to one quarter or less, or the equivalent of 30 hours of instruction.

A study by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in January 2015 of three states (Georgia, Texas, Idaho) cited evidence of changes in financial decision-making by students in Texas and Georgia which required a half-year course for graduation, teacher training, clearly stated learning outcomes, and state and/or national assessments:

Based on our analysis, we conclude that exposure to the types of high school personal financial education mandated by these three states improves credit scores and reduces delinquency rates for young adults.

The research strongly indicates that it is important to talk about money with students, provide activities that encourage problem solving and decision-making, application of math skills, and relevance to what is taught or a student’s personal situation. Although credit cards, auto insurance, college loans, savings, and developing a personal budget are the most likely financial decisions for high school students in the next five years, there are also opportunities for personal application in a history or economics course which includes lessons on inflation, trade, national debt, and the inequality of income. Their parents are likely discussing banking, budgeting, mortgages, college expenses, investments and their grandparents are concerned with Social Security, retirement planning, and insurance. Even if students are not directly involved with these personal matters, they are aware of them.

How Should Financial Literacy be Taught?

After accepting the importance of financial education and its relationship to your district’s mission statement, the first step is for the curriculum team in your district and school to decide the best way to effectively deliver instruction on the required NJ Learning Outcomes. Piaget’s theories provide a significant understanding that middle school students are exploring and challenging theories about how the world works. Effective instruction leading to changed behaviors must be relevant, make applications to their prior knowledge and provide opportunities for inquiry, research, debate, and presentation. Instead of a checklist based on core content or the completion of a number of activity sheets, consider how scenarios, simulations, speakers, decision-making, and problem-solving impact enduring understandings and new behaviors regarding saving, spending, investing, and planning.

The second step is to identify the resources for these strategies. Consider planning your curriculum with the assistance of college professors, professional organizations, local banks and entrepreneurs. They require discernment, planning and customizing to your student population. Although there are many resources available on the internet and from banks, investment firms, and entrepreneurs, a serious concern is that some of these resources are simply not effective, do not support student inquiry and are missing applications to prior knowledge. The Council on Economic Education has developed lessons with application to economics and history that are also adaptable to financial literacy concepts. An organization in New York City, Working in Support of Educators (W!SE) has developed a best practices curriculum with assessments. A benefit of the W!SE program is that its effectiveness is demonstrated in many different states and in urban and suburban districts. The New Jersey Council on Economic Education offers professional development programs, webinars, and assistance. See the Works Cited section at the end of this article for their websites.

The third step is to provide meaningful and effective professional development for your teachers. When possible, professional development opportunities should be offered to every teacher in the district. Professional development is affordable and practical by using experienced teachers of financial literacy and economics in your district. Also, banks are required under the Community Reinvestment Act to support financial education in the areas where they are located and colleges and investment firms (real estate, insurance, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) have extensive experience and resources that can lead to a best practices model curriculum for your students. Consider a partnership or collaborative dialogue to get started.

The Importance of Assessments

A critical part of a best practice curriculum on financial literacy includes assessments that engage students in demonstrating their level of competency in addressing problems relating to financial decision making. One concern of the critics who are opposed to requiring financial literacy in schools is that it is not effective and has not produced significant changes in student’s behavior because it lacks relevance to the decisions that make in middle school and high school. A recent article in the Washington Post (April 23, 2019) stated that financial literacy is a “waste of time” and a poor financial decision:

That’s because financial education simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t change behavior — as numerous studies have shown. Indeed, the fact that giving people information does not, by itself, change how they act is one of the most firmly established in social science, whether the subject is the dangers of drug use, the value of getting vaccinated or the calories in a restaurant’s bacon cheeseburger. The same is true of finance.”

Assessments can provide important answers to the debate on the efficacy of financial literacy instruction in grades K-12, especially when assessments involve more than one classroom or school and are validated by an outside professional organization or college faculty. Questions requiring an explanation are best for assessing what students have learned and how they are thinking. An example that includes multiple scenarios is: Select three (3) scenarios below and answer the question with a complete explanation as to which type of insurance policy (if any) is covered and a detailed explanation of the reasons. •

Scenario No. 1: A fire from another apartment destroys much of your apartment and your belongings. Whose insurance (yours of your landlord’s) pays for what? •

Scenario No. 2: You are negligent and leave food on your hot stove, starting a fire. Whose policy pays and what is covered? Are you liable for damage to the apartment building? •

Scenario No. 3: Your landlord is negligent in not repairing a plumbing problem you’ve been reporting, and a pipe bursts. Whose insurance (yours or your landlord’s) pays and what is covered?

Scenario No. 4: Someone trips and falls in your apartment and is injured. Does you renter’s liability pay for the injury, or your landlord’s?

• Scenario No. 5: Your apartment is broken into and your computer, television, and some jewelry are stolen. Are you covered?

Scenario No. 6: Your landlord claims you have damaged the apartment and is keeping part of your security deposit. Will the renter’s insurance cover this loss?

Scenario No. 7: Your washing machine overflows, flooding the basement.

Although multiple choice questions may not always represent higher cognitive skills, Working in Support of Educators (W!SE) provides valuable multiple choice assessments as part of their financial literacy certification test for students. The depth of learning comes with their rich data base of practice questions because the choices lead to deeper student inquiry and research. One benefit of using their multiple choice assessments is that these questions have been tested for reliability and validity and can be used objectively to measure local performance with other classes, schools or states.

Educators should also think about the importance of a longitudinal study of students taking financial literacy classes over time. Even if the evidence collected is anecdotal, it is helpful to collect data about financial decisions while students are still in school. For example, if financial literacy is taught in Grades 9 or 10, students in Grades 11 and 12 might be administered some of the questions they answered in Grades 9 or 10 to see if their answers remained consistent or if they improved or regressed.

References:

Federal Reserve Bank. (2014) Report on the economic well-being of U.S. households in 2013. Retrieved from https://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/2013-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201407.pdf  

Consumer Debt in New Jersey. (2015). Debt – $62,300. Retrieved from https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/consumer-new-jersey/  

Malcolm, H. (2014). Financial literacy education has lasting impact. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/04/08/financial-literacy-college-students/7296185/   

Champlain College (2017). National Financial Literacy Report. Retrieved from https://www.champlain.edu/centers-of-experience/center-for-financial-literacy/report-national-high-school-financial-literacy   

FINRA Investor Education Foundation. (2015). State financial education mandates: It’s all in the implementation. Retrieved from http://www.finra.org/sites/default/files/investoreducationfoundation.pdf   

Herron, J. (2019). Millennials still lean on parents for money but want financial independence, survey says. USA Today.  Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/04/18/millennial-money-why-young-adults-still-need-support-parents/3500346002/    

Apartment Hunters. (2019). Renter’s insurance policy scenarios. Retrieved from http://www.apartmenthunters.com/Content/Eight-Renter-Scenarios.aspx   

Working in Support of Education. (2019). Financial literacy. Retrieved from https://www.wise-ny.org/programs-services/financial-literacy/    

Council on Economic Education. (2019). K-12 resources. Retrieved from https://www.councilforeconed.org/k-12-resources/      

New Jersey Council on Economic Education. (2019). Personal finance for New Jersey middle school teachers. Retrieved from https://njeconomics.org/   

Ogden, T. (2019). More states are forcing students to study personal finance. It’s a waste of time.

Ogden, T. (2019). More states are forcing students to study personal finance. It’s a waste of time. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/04/23/more-states-are-forcing-students-study-personal-finance-its-waste-time/?utm_term=.3d40fff669f6

Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/04/18/millennial-money-why-young-adults-still-need-support-parents/3500346002/   

Engaging K-6 Students in History: The Nutley History Fair

Engaging K-6 Students in History: The Nutley History Fair

Hank Bitten,Executive Director, New Jersey Council for the Social Studies

The Nutley Academic Booster Club (ABC) (http://www.nutleyabc.org/) provides an opportunity for students in their K-6 elementary schools to participate in a science and history fair in alternating years each March. The article below reflects on my observations as a judge in the 2018 History Fair for K-6 students. I judged the student entries for Grades 4 and 6.

The History Fair is held in the high school gymnasium with tables for students in each grade to display their research based projects. Students arrive before 9:00 a.m. to setup their displays with their parents and program begins at 10:00 a.m. with judging the K-1 and 2-3 students. Judging for the students in grades 4-6 begins at 11:30 a.m. and the program ends by 2:00 p.m.. The rubric allocates the majority of points on an interview with students about their research and knowledge of their topic:

  • Understanding and Clarity (30%)
  • Historical Content (30%)
  • Creativity (30%)
  • Technical Skills (10%)

There are two teams of judges who interview each student. The students have an opportunity to engage in a conversation for about ten minutes with the judges about their project, what they learned, their research, and why their subject is important to world history, American history, New Jersey history, or local history. Exhibits include posters, demonstrations, media, and experiments.

Nutley Fair-1

Some of the exhibits I judged were on the history of ballet, gymnastics as an Olympic sport, the life of Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, the inventions of Thomas Edison, the history of Lego, the culture of death in China, Brazil, and Africa, the Aztec civilization, Anne Frank, and the architecture of the Taj Mahal. At several exhibits, the students were dressed in historical era clothing or as a gymnast, ballerina, or entrepreneur.

Parents are permitted to guide their children and work with them on their project but each student must explain the story and historical information on their own. The Nutley Academic Booster Club (ABC) recognizes the top three student winners in each grade and there is a public recognition at a later date. All students receive certificates.

Research for young students leaves a positive impact and nurtures their interest and engagement with history as they are talking about their topics with their families for several weeks, learning how to make an abstract topic into a visual presentation, understanding the importance of asking questions, using print and non-print resources, books and websites, interviews and museum resources, and speaking with adults about what they learned.

Nutley Fair-2

In the gym, the Nutley Historical Society has displays of local history, including information about the public schools, teachers and relatives observe and take hundreds of pictures, and there is plenty of food and fun contributing to this memorable experience. Even though only a few students in each grade receive one of the top three awards (there were 21 prizes for about 100 entries), every student developed a special and positive relationship with their person or historical event.

Consider planning a history fair program in your school or public school district!

This is How You Get Gun Control

This Is How You Get Gun Control

Bruce W. Dearstyne
The New York State Office of State History and the State Archives
Reprinted with permission from the History News Network

“We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around,” Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program a few days later. It was a wrenching reminder of how long politicians have ducked responsibility for curbing killers using assault rifles.

We have reached a critical point in our history when students need to implore lawmakers to protect them from gunfire in their own schools.

President Trump’s endorsement of stronger background checks and raising the age to purchase guns seem like positive steps. But his – and the NRA’s – proposal to arm classroom teachers raises the specter of gunmen armed with assault rifles shooting it out with classroom teachers armed with handguns.

The nation needs common-sense gun control that is compatible with the Second Amendment.

The story of the Sullivan Gun Control Act, passed by the New York State legislature in 1911, is worth studying for insights into how public pressure and political leadership could produce what is needed.

By the early 20th century, many New York political leaders, newspapers, and individual citizens were concerned with rising gun violence, particularly in New York City. Several factors aligned to escalate and transform that concern into support for gun control legislation.

Shooting a mayor provokes public outrage

On August 9, 1910, New York City Mayor William J. Gaynor was waiting to board a ship for a trip to Europe. He was suddenly approached by James J. Gallagher, who had been discharged from his position as a New York City dock night watchman for dereliction of his duty earlier in the year. Gallagher’s repeated appeals to the mayor for reinstatement had gotten no results.

Gallagher shot the mayor in the neck and also wounded the city sanitation commissioner who was there to see the mayor off. A New York World photographer happened to be there for what he had assumed would be a routine photo of the mayor. Instead, he snapped a picture of a bloodied Gaynor reeling from the shot. The photo made the front pages of city newspapers and was widely reprinted. It was a graphic representation of the horror of gun violence.

Gaynor survived but the bullet lodged in his neck and could not be removed. It caused him pain and discomfort until his death in 1913. Gallagher insisted that his being fired justified his assault on the mayor and that shooting public officials was defensible “if you have a grievance and can’t right it any other way.” He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and died there in 1913.

Killing a prominent writer provokes even more outrage

David Graham Phillips was a prominent New York City novelist in the early 20th century. On January 23, 1911, Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough, an eccentric violinist and music teacher, walked up to Phillips on the sidewalk near Gramercy Park. People standing nearby heard him cry out “I’ve been waiting for six months to get you” and then “Here you go!” as he shot the novelist five times. He then muttered “Here I go!” before shooting and killing himself. Phillips died of his wounds the next day.

Police searched Goldsborough’s apartment; from diaries and papers they learned he had become obsessed with one of Phillips’ novels, The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig. He believed it drew on Goldsborough family history, portraying it in an unflattering way. Goldsborough also believed Phillips could read his mind. Actually, Phillips’s novel was complete fiction rather than based on any actual people. Press accounts concluded Goldsborough was mentally deranged. The shootings of Gaynor and Phillips escalated public demand for gun control.

A coroner presents data

Support for gun control also came from an unlikely source, the New York City coroner’s office. George LeBrun, a senior administrator in the office, complied annual reports on deaths in the city in the early 20th century. The report released in January 1911 documented an alarming rise in gun-related killings. Gun violence was reaching epidemic levels. “The increase of homicide by shooting indicates the urgent necessity of the proper authorities taking some measure for the regulation of the indiscriminate sale and carrying of firearms,” the report insisted. “ The press picked up the sense of alarm, for instance, in a New York Times article on January 30 entitled, “Revolver Killings Fast Increasing.”

A politician takes the lead

Timothy Sullivan, a Democratic state senator from the Bowery area of Manhattan, was shocked at the Gaynor and Phillips shootings. But he was even more alarmed about a rising tide of gang-related shootings in his own district.

Sullivan, often known by his nickname “Big Tim,” was a no do-gooder reformer. He was a Tammany Hall regular who was involved with gambling, prostitution, and corruption. But he was also genuinely concerned with the welfare of his constituents. Tammany Hall itself was becoming more reform-minded.

Sullivan introduced a bill in the 1911 legislature to require licenses issued by judges or police for New Yorkers to possess firearms small enough to be concealed. Possession of such firearms without a license would be defined as a misdemeanor, and carrying one without a license was defined as a felony. Sellers were required to keep records of firearms transactions. The bill had other provisions as well.

Sullivan explained that there were three types of “gun toters.” The first category was professional criminals. The second consisted of people who were deranged or committed gun violence in fits of rage. His law would help in both those areas, he said.

But Sullivan said he was more concerned with a third category: “young fellows who carry guns around in their pockets all the time not because they are murderers or criminals but because the other fellows do it and they want to be able to protect themselves…. [T]hose boys aren’t all bad but … just carrying their guns around makes them itch to use them.”

Public opinion pressures the legislature

Sullivan’s bill was opposed by some gun owners and gun manufacturers. One upstate legislator told Sullivan that “your bill won’t stop murders. You can’t force a burglar to get a license to use a gun.” Others warned that criminals would get guns from other states.

But opponents were overshadowed by the voices of citizens who were fed up with gun violence, particularly people in New York City. Sullivan capitalized on public sentiment.

“This is a bill against murder,” he insisted in an impassioned plea for his bill in the Senate on May 11.

He pointed out that gun control was supported by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, department store owner John Wanamaker, several other wealthy and prominent New Yorkers, the city police department, and a number of judges. Law enforcement officers spoke out in favor of Sullivan’s bill. New York County Republican District Attorney (later governor) Charles Whitman said that “carrying a weapon is an invitation to a crime. Reduce the weapons carried and you will reduce crimes of violence. There isn’t any debating that point.” Public opinion swung behind the proposed legislation.

Bipartisan support for the bill

Democrats controlled the legislature but Sullivan lobbied his colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to support his bill. It came to be viewed as a bipartisan measure. Legislators, sensing public outrage at gun assaults, expressed support. After all, who wanted to be seen as opposing something that promised to save people’s lives? The Sullivan Act passed easily, garnering 46 of 51 votes in the Senate and 148 out of 150 in the Assembly, with both Democrats and Republicans in support. Democratic governor John A. Dix signed it into law. It took effect at midnight on August 31, 1911.

Insights from history

Critics soon charged that the law was selectively enforced, with police targeting immigrants and minority groups and planting guns on people they wanted to arrest for other reasons. It was challenged in court but upheld. Its impact on reducing gun-related crime has been questioned. As Patrick Charles explains in his new book, Armed in America: A History of Gun Rights from Colonial Militias to Concealed Carry, its passage inspired organized resistance to gun control in other states. But its basic provisions are still in place.

The Sullivan Act is not perfect by any means, but its passage sent a message that New Yorkers were determined to curb gun violence. The history of its passage offers three insights for today.

  • One, high-profile killings shock people into demanding action.
  • Two, public pressure is needed to get legislation passed, but in turn, the public’s perception is shaped by the media and political leaders who frame the issue and insist on action.
  • Three, compromise is possible. The Sullivan Act does not prevent people from getting concealed weapons, but it does require them to go through a process to do so.

Responses to Bruce Dearstyne

Nicole Waid, SUNY Oneonta, responds: The debate over the regulation of firearms has risen in intensity since the mass shooting that occurred February 14th at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida. The nation perpetually grapples over the intent of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Some believe the right to bear arms is something that should never be curtailed. Others feel that the founders could have never envisioned the technological advances that would make firearms more efficient and deadly. As the nation processes mass shootings in schools the debate, there is a range of solutions offered ranging from thoughts and prayers to enhanced background checks and banning assault-style weapons. The discourse between the different factions of politicians supported by the NRA and people who want sensible gun control measures to protect students in schools becomes a counterproductive cycle. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting seems to have something different which previous school shootings did not have. The children who lost their lives in Columbine did not have social media capabilities to speak out about the school shooting. The children who perished in the Sandy Hook school shooting were young elementary students, so they were not able to advocate for themselves. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, in contrast, are well-educated students with capabilities to disseminate their message about the need for gun control measures on social media. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas students have been thrust into the spotlight and sparked a nationwide movement to protest gun violence with a series of marches across the nation. The students had a well-defined set of objectives and tried to advocate for themselves when lawmakers have failed them. There has been considerable blowback on these students becoming targets of pro-gun activists, and the NRA. The students who are speaking out are accused of being coached by MoveOn.org and George Soros. The reality of the situation is that the students had effective social studies teachers who explained Constitutional principles to them and how they apply to their everyday lives.

Simon Burke a transplanted American living in Paris comments: “In a modern society where it seems to be easier for the bad guys to get guns than it is for the good guys (this excludes law enforcement), the only logical solution I see to end gun violence is to remove guns from general circulation. Basically, a ‘no badge no gun’ policy. Sure, exceptions for those living in rural areas needing firearms could be argued (defense against wild animals, limited to bolt-action/barrel breaching weapons, etc.), but what real-life use do automatic and concealed weapons have for civilians? None whatsoever. Australia, a country with striking social, economic, and historical similarities to the U.S. banned guns in the mid 90’s. Guess what? zero mass shootings since. I think a case study of Australia’s gun policy could be interesting. Other countries’ policies could be explored as well, but I think Australia is particularly interesting because of the similarities between our two countries.”

Carolyn Ramos: Purchasing weapons should be banned to anyone who is not properly trained or educated. That legislatures are considering arming teachers is absolutely outrageous. As an educator in an early childhood program, I would never want my own students to fear me because I carry a weapon. There are thousands of under-funded public schools in this country. Schools need new books, new desks, smart boards, laptops, tablets, and supplies, not teachers with guns. Is this country telling our children that violence is the only way to solve our problems? That shooting is the only alternative here?

Bar Hidden Weapons On Sullivan’s Plea New York Times, May 11, 1911.ALBANY, May 10. —

In spite of opposition from manufacturers of firearms, the Senate to-day passed Senator Timothy D. Sullivan’s bill restricting the sale and use of dangerous weapons. Only five Senators voted against the measure after the Bowery Senator had made a characteristic appeal in its favor.The Sullivan bill makes the carrying of concealed weapons a felony, requires those using revolvers and small arms to obtain licenses from police Magistrates, and provides for the registration by dealers in firearms of all persons who buy revolvers or similar weapons. Senator Ferris, the only member who spoke in opposition, offered an amendment removing the licensing feature. This, he said, was unworkable and would prove a hardship to those who desired to have pistols in their homes for their protection.“Have you a gun factory in your district?” Senator Sullivan asked of Senator Ferris, who represents Oneida County. “There is a factory there,” was the reply. “Would you oppose this bill if that were not so?” “That fact is not my reason for opposing the bill in its present form,” Senator Ferris said. “Your bill won’t stop murders. You can’t force a burglar to get a license to use a gun. He’ll get one from another state.”“I want to make it so the young thugs in my district will get three years for carrying dangerous weapons instead of getting a sentence in the electric chair a year from now,” said Senator Sullivan. “The manufacturers oppose my bill because they know that if we pass it other States will follow suit.”

The Case of the Participation in Government Research Paper in New York State

Policy Analysis as an Exit Criteria:

The Case of the Participation in Government Research Paper in New York State

Nancy Hinkley, Cornell University & Casey Jakubowski,

State University of New York-Albany

Imagine the most difficult task you have faced in your life. For many students, writing an essay is one of the most challenging undertakings of their school academic career. Imagine that essay is then morphed into a research paper, a required hurdle for graduation. That is the reality facing students in New York State schools. In this reflective essay, two experienced teachers, one social studies, and one special education, examine issues created by the capstone research report for students with a learning disabilities in a rural high school setting.

Background

In the early part of the 2000s, we were paired instructors in special education mainstream inclusion classes in a small, rural, upstate school district in New York. The school district is classified as rural under the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) coding. In order to protect confidentiality, we do not identify the specific school district. New York State classifies the district as a high needs district to the resources it can generate. Over half of the students in the district are considered living in poverty based upon the federal Free and Reduced Lunch rate. The district has a students with disabilities classification rate between 10-20 percent. The district’s graduation rate for students with disabilities is between 40-60 percent. The district has had some struggles, with declining population, damage due to natural disasters, and a poor economic outlook as major employers have left the area. Students and families within this area tend to be transient, moving between neighboring districts with frequency.

Nancy has over 20 years of experience in education, while Casey was in the early stages of his career. Both of the instructors have a keen interest in social studies, and were paired in a Global History and Geography class for 10th grade students. Both teachers hold certifications in social studies for New York State. Collaboration efforts extended beyond regular co-teaching assignments. One target focus was the 12th grade students assigned to the state mandated Participation in Government class. Casey was the primary instructor of record, while Nancy was the special education department’s case manager for the students and had resource room/ consultation functions for more than 20 seniors that academic year. Nancy had noticed a number of seniors were struggling with the capstone paper requirement for the Participation in Government class. Nancy asked Casey to visit the resource room and add content specific guidance to students, as he was the instructor of record for the class. Both instructors noticed a number of roadblocks to the successful completion of the capstone paper requirement for Participation in Government.

We wanted to relate this story to social studies teachers, as well as special education professionals in light of the increased rigor and alternative pathways for graduation now available to students in high school. With programs such as New Visions in Government, and the Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) based programs in New York State, we hope that the requirements for graduation via the Participation in Government course is accessible to students with disabilities. The high stakes testing which has traditionally kept students from graduating, namely the Global History and Geography exam, has been shortened. In light of recent political occurrences, it is especially important for students to understanding the basics of citizenship and participation. In the next section, the authors describe the research paper requirements necessary for graduation.

Research paper requirements

The research paper is a capstone requirement in the New York State Social Studies scope and sequence for our particular district. The research paper asks students to select a public policy issue and research it. Research involves discovering historical background on the policy issue. The policy issue can be local, countywide, state level, or national in nature. The paper requires students to research the alternatives to the policy. The paper should provide alternatives in support and opposition to a proposed policy solution. Usually the requirements for the public policy research paper are set locally. The teacher or the department will establish minimum length requirements for the paper, the number of sources required, and if graphs or charts are required. Usually, the public policy paper is structured as a semester long assignment for the students in the senior year Participation in Government class. The course included readings from Coplin & O’leary (1988) as the core textbook. The ½ credit course is one semester in length. For many teachers, the frustration that students experience while completing the paper has resulted in the creation of a step by step guide to the research and writing process that the student must undertake as they develop this final, culminating project for their social studies career. The step-by-step manual is an attempt by schools to scaffold the research requirements into manageable sections during the semester. This follows best practice advice on how to teach adolescents to write (Graham & MacArthur, 2013).

The step by step guide is divided into parts that are the foci of the writing stages for the paper. Usually the completed packet is submitted along with the final paper to the teacher at the end of the semester. The stages of the packet begin with the selection of a public policy problem that the student can select. In some schools, the teacher or department may provide the students with a list of topics This part of the packet may involve having students explore some initial encyclopedia/ internet search level examination of their potential topics. Usually the teacher will require the students to submit three potential topics with a justification about why those topics were selected.

The second stage of the process is the initial research part of the paper. After students have selected topics that can be researched, the packet will then require students to provide at least three to five sources, properly cited using MLA style citations, and at least two quotes per source. The thinking behind this strategy is encouraging students to learn how to properly identify sources and cite quotes. Usually at this stage, the teacher will pair with the school or community librarians to work with students on the research aspect of the paper. This section of the package is then expanded to ask students to look at multiple types of sources, including books, articles, internet databases and other sources that may be encountered in undergraduate research papers.

The third stage of the packet involves having students contact public officials to conduct interviews or communicate in the form of a letter or e-mail exchange. During this period, students who have been keeping up with the efforts are finding the paper beginning to coalesce around their selected topic, and the research helps inform the creation of questions. In some schools, the students may be asked to conduct surveys within the school or community to gauge public opinion on the public policy issue. This process requires students to research, on a lower level, surveys and types of questions that will help in the public policy issue process.

The fourth stage of the paper process is the crafting of the actual paper. Students are led through writing exercises in order to craft topic sentences, supporting detail sentences, and paragraph structure. This part of the public policy research packet will ask students to submit draft paragraphs to the teacher in order to receive feedback on the structure, grammar, and progress of the research paper. As many researchers have found, students find writing difficult, and students with difficulties find this stage of the process extremely difficult.

The fifth stage of the public policy research paper is the verbal presentation to the class. Students are expected to prepare a five to ten minute presentation about their public policy issue, the alternatives, and their recommendations for the policy issue. Students are encouraged to use PowerPoint or other presentation software to enliven the presentation. The teacher and classmates may ask questions that the student will need to answer. For students who have difficulty with verbal communication, this can be a difficult process.

Comparisons across the state

How do schools across New York State handle the Participation in Government capstone course? The answer is it varies from district to district.

From Casey’s personal experience, graduating from a suburban Western New York school district which sent a number of students on to four year colleges, a research paper was required. The class needed to select a public policy issue and discuss its root causes and implementation strategies.

When Casey worked at a small Western New York rural district, there was no paper required for the course. Students there were expected to take quizzes, discuss current events and pass a final exam. This 50 question multiple choice exam covered material presented in class and via lecture.

During visits to 15 high schools with ‘accountability status’ between 2007-2013, only one required a research paper, and that research paper was reserved for the Advanced Placement and Syracuse University Project advance sections of the participation in government classes. In the other classrooms, current events binders, issues presentations, and campaign posters were most often used as methods to check for understanding. Many of the teachers, when asked about their Participation in Government courses felt they needed to educate students about the basics of voting and the basics of local government. In poorer areas, there was often a focus on interactions with police, the courts, and with student’s personal experiences in the local enforcement system.

In one large urban district in New York State, the policies for participation in government vary across schools and teachers. In this district, the Participation in Government teachers are often assigned last minute, and are rated on the Annual Professional Performance Review for students in the Global History or United States history classes. The department meetings in this district, as well as the district wide professional development often focus on the middle and high school levels, specifically the Regents tested curriculum.

Surveying the online syllabus of 30 districts across New York State, in 2017, we discovered that most classes required a project for a passing grade, but almost none of the syllabus required a policy analysis paper like what was required for our student. The syllabus were gathered as follows: five from the western New York area, five from the central/ southern tier area, five from New York City, five from Long Island, 5 from the Capitol/ Adirondack region, and 5 from the Finger lakes region.

We have often thought there are some serious issues that should be considered in the design of a course at the high school level that required students to write a research paper. Yes, we admit that it is an important and relevant skill for students to acquire before college. The Common Core Learning Standards (NGA, 2010) for writing do require students to become proficient in writing research papers as part of the expectations adopted by the Board of Regents. The New York State Social Studies Frameworks adopted in 2014 (NYSED, 2014) contain the social studies practices, which reference the ability of students to convey knowledge in written form. We have often asked ourselves if there is an alternative to the social studies research paper.

A Research perspective

From a special education standpoint, the paper is a perfect storm of issues that can hinder students, especially at a critical juncture of their school careers. Research indicates students who have been identified as having a learning difficulty are more at risk of exiting high school before they have obtained their graduation credential (Schargel & Smink, 2013). Bender (2004) identifies reading and writing difficulties as one of the most common manifestations of Learning disabilities in students. The idea of writing a large research paper is a daunting task to students who struggle with the basics of writing. There are many moving pieces to writing a paper for a high school student which include the following:

  1. Idea generation
  2. Research and sourcing
  3. Story mapping
  4. Paragraph construction
  5. Sentence construction
  6. Word Choice
  7. Editing for content
  8. Editing for construction
  9. Presentation (Terego, 2005).

These moving pieces must often occur in situations where a content area teacher, such as a social studies teacher, has not been trained in teaching writing to adolescent learners. Often content teachers are unable to diagnose writing problems, offer effective direct instruction, and assist students in meeting the expectations of the task: produce a research paper (Graham, et al, 2014). This leads to a mutually frustrating situation, as students who experience scholastic difficulties in writing are asked by teacher to write a significant paper. Further exasperating the problem, many of the teachers are ill prepared to teach the writing process (Lucas & Passe, 2017).

Actions taken

Besides one-to-one coaching, Casey was unsure on how to better assist the students with special learning needs in his classroom. Nancy, realizing her senior students were becoming increasingly frustrated at the project, began meeting with Casey to implement a strategic intervention plan for the students who needed extra help. Our first step was to meet on a regular, weekly basis to discuss student’s progress, their frustrations, and what we, as instructors could do to help.

The two teachers then examined some of the issues which emerged as students were writing their research paper. Nancy and Casey engaged in Self Study/ reflective practice in order to better serve the needs of the students.   A self-study as defined in Kline and Soejatminah’s (2016) work contains five elements: “it is self-initiated and focused; it is improvement-aimed; it is interactive; it includes multiple, mainly qualitative methods; and it defines validity based on trustworthiness” (p. 162). Over the course of the fall semester of that year, we engaged in daily dialogues with each other. These dialogues were structured as mentoring sessions that were initiated through the school district’s efforts to pair an experienced teacher with a novice teacher. Additional dialogues included interaction with other members of the special education staff at the high school, and some discussions with members of the social studies department. Almost every teacher and teacher’s assistant in the two departments were available for conversations due to the small size of the departments. Our self study was designed less as a practitioner research project but more as an instructional improvement project in order to serve our highest priority stakeholders: at-risk special education students in a rural community in upstate New York.

In the class, we decided to move to a consultation model, where teams of students were given opportunities to meet with us in a setting where Casey helped with the content, and Nancy helped with the writing process. Students were asked, in teams, to read a paragraph the other student team member had written and make comments on the flow and content. This workshop approach, with two teachers available for support allowed students time in class to hone writing abilities.

We then invited students to come in during lunch and after school to receive more individual writing assistance with the paper. We also teamed with ELA teachers and the librarian at the school to offer “expert” assistance in writing and research. After school, students could access Casey for content, Nancy for scaffolding the assignment, the librarian for research help, and the ELA teacher for writing support.

The experience we reported here is an attempt to reflect upon and improve professional practice by an experienced and novice teacher working with at risk populations. We, as a team, were trying to ensure students who faced obstacles to graduation could have an opportunity to become successful. Further, we were aware of a situation which Deshler, Robinson, & Mellard, (2009) describe as the special education practitioner becoming the content area “tutor” that helped students with special needs “survive” content classes. We actively sought to ensure that both Casey and Nancy were equals, co-teachers, presenting and guiding students without differentiation of their classroom value to the students.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the national attention payed to civics education is important, and frankly overdue. As social studies teachers across New York State realize, civics education is layered into the Common Core aligned state learning standards. With partnerships with librarians, media specialists, and the English departments become more critical now more than ever we must ensure students aren’t left behind. Engaging in citizenship by more than voting is important. The fundamentals and processes which are covered in the Participation and Government class help students master skills necessary for adulthood. The major concern is the level of support given to students to complete a research paper during the class, especially with students with disabilities. It is critical and important that if a large research paper is required, then sufficient co-planning, scaffolding, and feedback are marshaled between the two teachers. As practitioners, our best thinking is needed in this area.

References

Bender, W. N. (2004). Learning disabilities: Characteristics, identification, and teaching strategies. Allyn & Bacon.
Copeland, W. & O’Leary (1989). Effective Participation in Government. Washington: Policy Studies Association.
Deshler, D. D., Robinson, S., & Mellard, D. F. (2009). Instructional principles for optimizing outcomes for adolescents with learning disabilities. Classroom strategies for struggling learners, 173-189.
Graham, S., & MacArthur, C. A. (Eds.). (2013). Best practices in writing instruction. Guilford Press.
Graham, S., Capizzi, A., Harris, K. R., Hebert, M., & Morphy, P. (2014). Teaching writing to middle school students: A national survey. Reading and Writing, 27(6), 1015-1042.
Kline, J., & Soejatminah, S. (2016). “Becoming” Teacher Education Researchers in Diverse Rural Communities. In Self-studies in Rural Teacher Education (pp. 157-178). Springer International Publishing.
Lucas, A. G., & Passe, J. (2017). Are social studies methods textbooks preparing teachers to support students with disabilities in social studies classrooms?. The Journal of Social Studies Research41(2), 141-153.
National Governors Association (2010). Common Core State Learning Standards. Washington, D.C.
NYSED (2014). New York State Social Studies Frameworks. Albany, NY
Schargel, F., & Smink, J. (2013). Helping students graduate: A strategic approach to dropout prevention. Routledge.
Terego, A. (2005). Essay Writing for High School Students, Lawrenceville, NJ.