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Pleasantville Worried About Social Studies Future

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. - Pleasantville Union Free School District teachers and administrators are worried that its social studies program may soon be history.

"Social studies is nationally, and in New York state, an endangered subject," said Pace Univsersity lecturer Beth Kava, who was brought in to assess the district's program.

In 2010, the state Board of Regents voted to eliminate fifth- and eighth-grade social studies exams as a cost-saving measure. Now, Kava says, high school global history exams are in jeopardy.

“It looks pretty good that the global history regents will be eliminated, which is an odd thing to do when you’re trying to make a nation globally competitive,” Kava said. “Without a strong social studies education, I think you might get great engineers, but I’m not sure exactly what they’re going to build.”

Schools Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter said a state emphasis on S.T.E.M. courses (science, techonology, engineering, mathematics) has de-emphasized social studies programs, which she finds "frightening."

"A democracy is a very fragile thing," Fox-Alter said. "We look back at terrorist regimes, one of the first things they did, they removed the history of a culture. I just found it frightening to think that we could be heading in the direction of eliminating four years of social studies in the state of New York."

The Education Department is reportedly considering allowing students to substitute a vocational exam for global history, while others could be allowed to skip the history test for a second math or science exam, administrators said. Kava believes if global history is no longer required to graduate, it could spell the end for programs throughout the state.

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