NASD Curriculum Needs More History, School Board Member says

Chris Miller, a Nazareth School Board member and former history teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District, expressed concern that students aren't getting a healthy enough dose of history.

Nazareth Area School Board heard a former history teacher and a former social studies teacher exchange thoughts about how history is taught and tested in the district.

And the board heard a presentation about a high school alumnus who made history and recorded it in a book.

The former history teacher is board member Chris Miller, who said he wanted to make sure students are getting enough of a dose of history, particularly local history.

The former social studies teacher is Tamara Gary, the district’s director of curriculum whose focus is the humanities. She told Miller she is confident students are getting strong exposure to history and that the district has a strong advanced placement history program in the high school.

Gary rattled off statistics about how history is taught in the district. For instance, local history is taught in third grade, while teachers in higher grades -- not only in history but in other subjects such as art -- try to take advantage of local history groups and historical places to help bring to life topics like the Civil War.

Miller, a history teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District for more than 30 years, expressed concern that history is not covered in statewide tests such as the PSSAs and the Keystone Exams.

Gary acknowledged this, explaining that the Keystone Exams are “course specific tests” for algebra I, biology and literature -- but not history. And since the PSSAs are for math, reading and science, history and how much of it students are learning sometimes “fall under the radar,” she said.

But she pointed to significant enrollment in honors and AP history and social studies courses and said students who achieve high scores on AP history tests essentially gain college credit at certain schools by being exempt from taking introductory courses.

”Social studies is not a forgotten thing,” Gary said after the meeting.

She also said high school principal Alan Davis is expected to give a presentation on the history and social studies programs at a December school board meeting.

Miller appeared satisfied with Gary’s responses to his questions and said “thank you” when she was finished.

Meanwhile, the board heard about a Nazareth High School alumnus who made history.

Jeff Noecker, a member of the Class of 1966 who grew up on Pine Street and attended Whitefield Elementary School, was a combat pilot in Vietnam who flew more than 108 missions in an AC-130 spectre gunship, according to a presentation by Barb Dietterich, also a member of the Class of 1966.

Noecker, who died in June at age 64, wrote a book about his experiences, “Callsign: Spectre,” published last year. Dietterich and fellow Class of 1966 member Rosemary Engler presented the board with a copy of Noecker’s book. She said another copy already has been given to the Memorial Library of Nazareth and Vicinity.

Gibbs November 14, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Shocking he is a history teacher and thinks more history should be taught how about if he is that concerned go back to BASD and do it there, the curriculum in Nazareth is fine wow they look for more things at these meetings to go on and on about when they should truly be looking into real problems within the district.
Arthur November 14, 2012 at 03:41 PM
HA! All you need to do is ask a recent graduate about History and you will know they are not getting it. They know next to nothing about the beginnings oft of the USA and many don't know anything about recent History, such as WWII. Go to Geography from there and they might even tell you Cuba is next to Alaska. I know because a recent graduate told me that.
Johnny Doe November 14, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I can't believe what TMF just noted above.... I have a few children in Nazareth and yes there should be more taught regarding OUR history (good or bad). How dare you insinuate History is not worth discussing!! There maybe other issues to discuss, agreed but History is so important to us as American Citizens. NASD has so many clubs and extra's that I'm sure adjustments could be made to incorporate more history. I also understand that testing is important but so is our history. Go visit Quiet Valley for a little reminder as to how far we've come and be thankful you live in the US!!
Ben Miller November 15, 2012 at 02:26 AM
I graduated from Nazareth, learned quite a bit of history at all levels and went on to become a historian myself. I've written two history books and contributed to three others. Unless the curriculum has changed drastically since I graduated, Nazareth is doing an excellent job educating our children. I'd be very curious to know if "Arthur" or "Johnny Doe" attended Nazareth or if they are just making assumptions. The reason I ask is because as I already noted, I'm a Nazareth alumnus. I learned a tremendous amount of history from great teachers like Ron Lewis, and the late James Wright, who both instilled in me a love for American and local history.
Ben Miller November 15, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Not a period to be found in there... Perhaps, Nazareth should add more English classes?
Johnny Doe November 15, 2012 at 03:21 AM
BM you clearly had an interest in history to begin and that is awesome. My husband teaches history and no I didn't go to Nazareth (which really has no significant meaning)...As I stated I have a few children that did and do attend NASD and I think as in most schools history should be an important part of school. I applaud all teachers especially history as I enjoy it as well. By the way one of my children had Ms. Deitterich whom I think is an amazing teacher and might I also ad that NASD has a few teachers that I had when I was in school, not Nazareth. The sad thing is many of our students (not just Nazareth) today do not have alot of knowledge on our history and bottom line it is sad.
Ben Miller November 15, 2012 at 05:29 AM
I can agree with the sentiment, Johnny Doe, but I fear that the lack of history knowledge may come from the pervasive attitude among today's students, "When am I ever going to need to know this?" It seems they have either never learned or never taken seriously the immortal words of George Santayana about the past in 'Life of Reason I'. I have great respect for the teachers in the Nazareth School District and a lot of loyalty to my Alma mater. Nazareth High School was more than a place of education for me, it was a second home. My father, Alan G. Miller, taught English at the high school for 30 years.
Rosemary B November 15, 2012 at 05:02 PM
TMF, What are the real problems at Nazareth that need attention?
Rosemary B November 15, 2012 at 05:04 PM
They are also gleefully unaware about how our government is set up and how it is supposed to work. Most are unaware that we have 3 branches of government to try and keep a balance of power.
Ben Miller November 15, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Rosemary, you've made a very broad statement, lumping every Nazareth alumnus into the same category. You've said was are "Gleefully unaware about how our government is set up" and continued on to say, "Most are unaware that we have 3 branches of government to try and keep a balance of power." I challenge you to cite one source for your comments, one piece of empirical evidence to support your comments. Will you bring up test scores? I'm guessing not, since Nazareth ranks among to top school districts in the state. Do you have some independent research that you've commissioned to support your fallacious comments?
Rosemary B November 15, 2012 at 06:02 PM
My apologies. I actually meant most students in this country are gleefully unaware of the basic set up of our countries government. I have recently seen a clip where Ivy League students who were about to vote in this past election were asked basic questions about our government and were unable to answer them correctly. I find that disturbing. Did not mean to rile you up. :)
Rosemary B November 15, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Though it would be fascinating to stop random Nazareth students and ask them basic questions about history and our governmental system to see how many have absorbed that information!
Ben Miller November 15, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Well, Rosemary, it seems that I owe YOU an apology. I thought you were disparaging Nazareth students as some individuals have done in different posts and two people did here. My acerbic comments were in response to that mentality and it seems I misjudged your intentions. Please accept my apology.


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