By Cynthia Tobar
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans, created in 1900, was the first monument of its kind that sought the active involvement of Americans in nominating their favorite "Great Americans.” The Hall was conceived of by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University (NYU), who envisioned a democratic election process for selecting these greats modeled after presidential elections. Nominations came to the election center and after a person received a certain number of votes, an NYU Senate of 100 voters made the final choice. The Senate was composed of American leaders: past American presidents, presidents of colleges, senators, and men of renown in various fields. Problems soon arose, however, when this initial process yielded 29 nominees, all male. The lack of women created a scandal and in the next election eight women were elected (currently, there are 11 women in the Hall). However, the contentious nomination of Robert E. Lee remained.
By Chloe Smolarski
We’ve Come a Long Way Baby: A Backward Glance at Library Service Availability at the Municipal Colleges
By Sandra Roff
You are still waiting for that interlibrary loan book or perhaps a video that you wanted to show your class, and you are wondering what is taking so long. After reviewing Reading Publics: New York City’s Public Libraries 1754-1911 by Tom Glynn it became clear that in the nineteenth-century, at a time when reading was the only way to get information, the availability of libraries was extremely limited, and what we now recognize as the job of a library was not realized until the twentieth century. The earliest libraries that opened in New York City operated as private corporations, with the wealthy buying shares to borrow books. Special interest groups also started libraries such as the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, who had a library with a small annual fee. The New-York Historical Society opened in 1805 with a mission to collect New York City materials, but again membership was restricted to the elite. Other libraries followed but they all required a fee and in addition, many had extremely limited hours.
By Terri N. Watson
Edwards led I.S. 201’s Community Education Center and, along with her dear friend and neighbor Hannah Brockington, served on its 21-member governing body. The center was housed in I.S. 201: a windowless structure that contained an intermediate school and nearly a dozen centers and programs created to meet Harlem’s needs. It was also one of the three demonstration school districts established in 1967 after New York City’s Black and Hispanic parents demanded a say in their children’s schooling. The other two districts were located in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn, and in lower Manhattan.
Introduction by Nick Juravich
Fifty years ago this fall, the United Federation of Teachers went on strike three times, closing NYC public schools for more than six weeks. The legacy of these strikes continues to reverberate through the city's schools today.
By the fall, the conflict in Brooklyn had engulfed the city. Nearly 57,000 teachers walked picket lines, and over 1 million students were out of school.
New Yorkers have battled over school governance for more than two centuries, and the struggle continues in ongoing debates over mayoral control. The 1968 conflict, however, did not simply transform the school system. It reshaped political alliances, social movements, and labor organizing in the city for decades to come.
The Board of Education abandoned the community control experiment one year after the strikes, but the school system was decentralized by the state legislature into quasi-independent districts with elected community school boards in 1970. This system, in turn, was eliminated in 2002 at the request of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who won control of the city’s schools from the state legislature.
This centralization has not gone unchallenged. Parents regularly demand more democracy and transparency from the city, and state lawmakers now reconsider mayoral control nearly annually. Fifty years on, many of the questions that New Yorkers struggled with in 1968 remain urgent and unresolved.
Who will teach the city’s children and how will they do it? How will the city address persistent racism, segregation, and educational inequality in its schools? Who will be held accountable to the children and parents schools serve, as well as to the teachers employed by the system?
Gotham, in partnership with Chalkbeat, asked eight historians and scholars of education to reflect on how this history remains relevant for NYC public schools today. Here’s what they told us.
Fifty Years of Struggle at NYC's Public University: An interview with Anthony G. Picciano & Chet Jordan
By Sandra Roff
Teaching as a profession aims to achieve the most noble of principles — educating children to be responsible, productive citizens. Unfortunately, the teachers hired in the early years of the new republic and well into the nineteenth century were usually untrained and unprepared for the job ahead. The civic-minded movers and shakers in New York City at the time were interested in the education of its youth, but the path to securing qualified teachers for the schools was slow to be realized.
Michael Fabricant & Stephen Brier's Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education
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