We’re all about the History of Education in New York City

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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Center on History and Education

Teachers College, Columbia University

We’re all about the History of Education in New York City

There are many academic centers and institutes concerned with the study of history and with the reform of history education, but what is distinctive about the TC Center is our interest in the history of education in New York City.  Our focus makes all good sense given that we are located in the nation’s largest most diverse city and that New York City has historically been a significant arena for educational reform and innovation.  Moreover, the history of education in New York City has not been sufficiently threaded through our understanding of the history of the City of New York or the history of American urban education.

We are inspired by the work of the distinguished historian of American education, Lawrence A. Cremin, who located the process of education in multiple contexts of learning.  In this spirit, the Center, unbound by the public school classroom, is committed to looking at New York educational history within informal and formal settings of teaching and learning and across New York neighborhoods and communities.

Our goals are twofold: to encourage new scholarship in the history of education in New York City and to use local educational history as an entry point for the development of historical literacy in learners on the K-12 level.  The project Educating Harlem, under the Center’s wings, has been central to the development of these objectives.  It has encouraged new directions in scholarship about the history of teaching and learning in Harlem and has developed projects for youth to investigate the history of education in their neighborhood.

A good deal of thinking and rethinking about Center goals has taken place in conjunction with the course, “The History of Education in New York City.”  The course, which I have taught for several years at TC, has become a laboratory for the Center to explore how New York’s educational past may illuminate the history of urban education, and may serve too as a framework for shaping instructional practices that support the goals of historical literacy. 

We have taken a sure step in the course in that direction with the development of Living and Learning: The History of Education in New York City, a project organized in collaboration with the Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning.  With a focus on what the development of a branch public library might tell about the history of a New York neighborhood and its residents, Living and Learning speaks to the history of education broadly defined and identifies a local primary site of learning – the neighborhood public  library - as a meaningful context in which to explore with young learners the fundamentals of historical literacy.