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N.Y. Teachers Urge Social Studies Return to Chronological Approach

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A committee established to revise New York State's social-studies curriculum has included in its proposals the recommendations of teachers and administrators, many of whom called for a return to a chronological approach to study.

Meeting in Albany last week, the nine-member panel considered the reactions of more than 700 members of the state's Social-Studies Superintendents Association and the Council for the Social Studies.

Among the three "primary" reactions to the committee's proposals was a desire for a more chronological approach to social studies, said Donald H. Bragaw, chief of the bureau of social studies in the state Department of Education, who met regularly with the committee.

The committee will receive additional reactions and will present its final recommendations to the state education commissioner, Gordon M. Ambach, before a final curriculum is adopted this summer, a panel member said.

Under the proposals aired before the two social-studies organizations at meetings last month, the curriculum would be changed to:

Give greater emphasis to American history in junior high school. State history is now taught in the 9th grade and U.S. history is taught in the 10th grade.

Eliminate the New York State history course and incorporate its contents in a two-year U.S. history course.

Include, for the first time, Latin American studies as part of the 9th- and 10th-grade classes on world civilization.

Eliminate the 11th-grade American-studies class--which covers six topical areas over the course of the year--in favor of semester-long classes on the U.S. government and economic system.

Although "most people [want] to go back to the traditional chronological approach," said Mr. Bragaw, there is no way of knowing whether the proposals under consideration would put more or less stress on that approach.

"People keep making the dichotomy between process and content," said Gloria Sesso, a member of the committee and a teacher at Harborfields High School on Long Island. "We are going to [require students to] memorize names, dates, and places, but we're putting them in context. You need the names, dates, and places to [teach] big ideas."

Mr. Bragaw said that teachers responding to the new proposal had complained about the exclusion of India from the world-civilization curriculum and the lack of a required program in the 12th grade.

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