Accused by Jezebel of ‘erasing’ women from history, state ed says curriculum still in progress

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ALBANY—A popular feminist website criticized New York's Education Department for a new proposed outline of a high school global history curriculum that makes mention of only one woman.

Jezebel, a Gawker Media site, cites an “eagle-eyed tipster” who pointed out that the outline of ninth and 10th grade material names more than 30 male historical figures but only one woman: Mary Wollstonecraft, an eighteenth-century English writer, philosopher and women's rights advocate.

The article says the department is effectively “erasing” women from history.

“As the tipster points out, that means there's no mention of 'Cleopatra, Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt, CiXi, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Virginia Woolf, either of the Queen Elizabeths of England, Catherine the Great (Isabella of Spain), Evita Peron, Madame Curie,'” according to the blog. “No Hatshepsut! No Benazir Bhutto! No Joan of Arc! No Rosa Luxemburg or Marie Antoinette!”

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An education department spokesman explained that the outline is a draft document that has not yet been adopted by the State Board of Regents, an education policymaking panel. The new outline is an effort to update 1996 social studies standards to incorporate skills promoted by the Common Core, which designate what students should learn in math and English.

The Common Core standards aim to boost practical application of problem-solving skills and evidence-based reading comprehension and writing.

The draft outline has been released for public comment three times, receiving more than 3,000 comments from 900 people, including some of the state's foremost social studies educators, according to the spokesman. The state recently posted the document online for further public review, and the Board of Regents will vote on whether to adopt it at an upcoming meeting.

Once the outline is approved, the department will develop field guides that will be much more detailed and provide guidance to districts for developing or choosing local curriculums.

“The real nuts and bolts of the historical facts and details occur at the level of the local curriculum,” said Ken Wagner, deputy commissioner of education.

Capital reviewed the outline and confirmed that the global history portion of the outline references Wollstonecraft and no other women. The full outline, which includes the American history material for 11th and 12th graders, makes reference at least 10 women, such as abolitionist Lucretia Mott and suffragist Susan B. Anthony. The American history document also includes many references to women's issues, as well as issues pertaining to minorities and the gay community.

The outline of the full high-school curricula still contains more than six times as many male historical figures than female ones.

Wagner said department officials might revisit the outline to examine whether more women should be included.

“Once we confirm whether or not it's true, we would go back to our educators who have helped us work on the framework and say, 'This is something that was just brought to our attention. What kind of adjustments do we need to make?'” he said.