Humanities need state funds to combat ‘fake history’

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How do students learn about Connecticut? Let’s hope it’s not from a textbook that sugar- coats Connecticut’s history of slavery.

In 2015 the Department of Education recommended incorporating Connecticut content into the public school social studies curriculum and created frameworks for doing so.

But that doesn’t actually get content into the classroom. The state doesn’t create or fund curriculum or resources. To implement the state’s recommendation, teachers, especially in the lower grades, need affordable and current resources about Connecticut—as we’ve just learned by Norwalk’s example.

Connecticut Explored, the state’s nonprofit magazine of Connecticut history, decided to create one. Before last May, this would have been a no-brainer. Connecticut Humanities would have been a natural funder.

Oh, but wait. Gov. Dannel Malloy zeroed out CT Humanities’s state funding in the 2016-2017 budget, leaving the heritage and humanities community with no competitive grant pool to apply to for projects like this.

On a shoestring of private funding, a team of teachers, curriculum specialists, and historians are developing a social studies textbook and companion website about Connecticut for third and fourth graders. But we still need a $1.50 per student to print and put this in the hands of 40,000 students next fall.

How is it that humanities, so important in an era of “fake news” and, apparently, “fake history,” is inexplicably and unjustifiably reduced to $0 in the state budget? If Connecticut Humanities was properly funded in the state budget this and many other sorely needed education programs for children and adults could happen. Every legislator has a history museum and library (or two or three) in their district engaged with teaching children and adults alike.

I respectfully ask our governor and state legislators to correct this situation in the next budget. Put Connecticut Humanities back in the state budget at a fair level of funding. 40,000 third and fourth graders and the history museums in every town across Connecticut they visit will thank you.

Elizabeth Normen is the Publisher of Connecticut Explored, the nonprofit magazine of Connecticut history, co-producer of Grating the Nutmeg, the podcast of Connecticut history, and developer of “Where I Live: Connecticut,” a social studies resource for third/fourth grade. 

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