Archive for the ‘Connecticut’ Tag

The State of Social Studies in CT

The state of social studies in Connecticut mirrors and amplifies the state of social studies education in the rest of the nation. Some of the major issues include an unapproved, draft curriculum frameworks, no social studies consultant at the Connecticut State Department of Education, and no official position statement from the state at all. This is a dangerous cocktail for apathy. Without these three critical components, Connecticut champions mediocrity when it comes to social studies education. This is especially concerning when you consider that the purpose of social studies is to produced an engaged citizenry endowed with skills such as critical thinking, empathy, and collaboration.

However so much that it seems like the Nutmeg State is disinterested with social studies education, there is hope. First, the state recently convened a committee to craft a curriculum framework based on the recently released College, Career, and Civic Life social studies framework. The forthcoming CT document is slated to put inquiry at the heart of the social studies classroom and provide students with an authentic social studies experience that will benefit them long after they graduate high school. If this committee holds true to their charge, this will be a giant step forward for the state of social studies in the land of steady habits.

Another layer to this silver lining lies with the efforts of the Honorable Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill. Social Studies has a true friend in Secretary Merrill. At a recent Social Studies Conference held at Central Connecticut State University, Merrill touted the importance of Social Studies education and her commitment to a quality social studies education for all of Connecticut’s students. With such an important person in our corner, Connecticut should be able to attain a social studies position statement to guide instruction and policy at all levels, a curriculum framework that promotes purposeful and powerful social studies education within our schools, and a social studies consultant to assist districts and teachers in meeting the demands of the 21st century.

In order to meet this goal, social studies education in Connecticut needs your help. First and foremost, contact Denise Merrill’s office to express your support for purposeful and powerful social studies education. While you are at it, contact your state representative and senator. Then, go to the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies Public Affairs Committee website to sign up for updates and to participate in one thing per month to promote social studies education. Finally, spread the word that we need a better stated of social studies education in Connecticut. Our democracy depends on it.

For your reference:
Office of the Secretary of the State
State of Connecticut
30 Trinity Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Telephone: (860) 509-6200
Twitter: @SOTSMerrill
Email: Denise.Merrill@ct.gov

“Forlorn Soldier”

This music video was created as a part of my capstone project. It is a time lapse of the Forlorn Soldier move with an original song called, “Forlorn Soldier,” as performed by Tom Callinan, Connecticut’s first state troubadour. The July 19, 2013 event was sponsored by the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission’s series of programs honoring the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The monument featured in this video is a brownstone figure of a Union soldier and was created by James G. Batterson in Hartford, CT. The location of the monument at of the time of video is 119 Airport Road, Hartford, CT. Videography and editing by Tony Roy. Created on July 21, 2013.

Forlorn Soldier Monument Analysis

This slideshow features four of James G. Batterson’s earliest monument figures. This is part of my research on the Forlorn Soldier, a Civil War Monument that was never sold and has been on display at various locations in Hartford for over 100 years. Explanation for when the monument was created and why the monument was not sold is unclear. Some say it was rejected because of the positioning of the monuments feet. This slideshow, however, shows that other monuments created by Batterson, and his colleague Carl Conrads, had identical foot positioning and were sold just the same.

The Forlorn Soldier Monument features a man with a beard, which is consistent with the earliest two monuments featured here, one from Granby (1868) and the other from New Haven (1870). The Forlorn Soldier has two major inconsistencies from all of the monuments featured here. First, the arm positioning on the monuments here are above the belt and the Forlorn Soldiers arm is positioned below the belt. The other inconsistency is that all of these monuments have some sort of support on the back of the statue. The Forlorn Soldier does not have this same support.

Fraser.TheLandOfSteadyHabits.pdf

The title of this post is the file name for a book that I recently scanned and added to my digital collection. Written by the late Bruce Fraser in 1988, Land of Steady Habits: A Brief History of Connecticut is an important work in the Connecticut history literary cadre.  According to the Publisher’s Note, The Connecticut Historical Commission produced this booklet claiming that it “provides the essence of Connecticut.” At the time of publication, the Commission hoped that Land of Steady Habits would stimulate further study and “provide a wider public appreciation” for the states historical heritage.  This work does all of the above and should be a standard in every history classroom across the state.

Fraser’s Land of Steady Habits is especially accessible to middle and high school grades because of its concise nature.  The entire booklet is eighty pages including title page, table of contents, postscript, timeline, images, and a four page listing of CT’s national historic land marks.  The body of the essay is fifty-two pages broken in 15 sections.  This is the equivalent of 3.4 pages per chapter, very manageable for readers at any level.  Although Mr. Fraser’s work is short, it is packed with not only the story of Connecticut, but also connections to the national historical themes.  Classroom history and social studies teachers could use this work to teach history through the lens of the local story from the time “before the Europeans” to the social unrest of the 1960s.  The basic premise behind this book is that the history of Connecticut is important, a message that we need to teach to the youth of the state.

One of the perennial concerns for Connecticut for the last several decades is the lack of local attachment. It is evident in the disjointed nature of the cities and towns and most prominent in the capital city.  Go to downtown Hartford on a weekend day and it is a ghost town.  People come in to work and they leave to their towns in the suburbs and beyond.  This scenario was just as true at the time of Land of Steady Habits publication as it is today.  Fraser and others, myself included, would accredit this lack of connection to suburban crawl and white-flight of the post-War period.  Nutmeggers now have their own enclaves a world apart from the deteriorating and increasingly diverse cities that they left behind. They lost their connection with the culture and history of their surroundings and they are unattached.

Raising our state’s future generations with knowledge and experiences of local culture and history is needed to create attachment to the region.  Students who are exposed to the culture of the state today will contribute to the local community tomorrow.  If we teach about the history and take students to experience Connecticut culture at places like the Wadsworth, Goodspeed, or Peabody and historical sites such as the Old State House, the Soldier and Sailors Memorial Arch, and Tapping Reeve House and Law School, then they are more likely to participate in cultural offerings when they reach adulthood.  Remarkably,  I am seeing a rise in interest in both state history and local connections.  This may be the time for institutions to market themselves to education institutions to increase their presence in the classroom and curriculum.  I am not talking about marketing to schools so you can charge $6 per person to offer a writing program.  Cultural institutions should look at schools as a way to market to future consumers or customers.  The more exposure the better.  Maybe these institutions should take the advice of the Connecticut Historical Commission and work to “provide a wider public appreciation” for the culture of CT…for the future of CT.

*Please note that my mentioning of cultural and historical centers in this article are not an endorsement of any institution or a discredit to those not listed.

Wadsworth image credit: Wikipedia.

Driftin’ w/ Wick

A few weeks back I had the honor and pleasure to meet with Wick Griswold, Sociologist at the University of Hartford.  According to his page on the university website, Wick’s “favorite course to teach is the Sociology of the CT River Watershed.”  Wick continues, “The mighty Connecticut River is a natural treasure. It’s history, ecology and beauty are sources of endless knowledge and aesthetics.”  I decided to contact Prof. Griswold because of his newly released book, A History of the Connecticut River.  Steve Armstrong and I met in his office on the university campus.  This meeting was filled with energy, interest, and inquiry.

I originally contacted Wick looking for an angle for the Goodwin College project (see previous post).  Following this meeting, I had just as many questions as I had answers, if not more.  I think this is a good thing.  As this meeting swirled in my head, I realized that his book was much more valuable than I previously thought.  Mr. Griswold is more than a Sociologist, he is a living keeper of history.  Wick is often found drifting down the CT River from the Enfield falls to the mouth of the CT River bordered by Old Saybrook and Old Lyme.  According to our conversation and his book, the trip takes four days.  Wick has a deep connection to the to the CT River and to its history.

Our meeting covered topics including the River Tribes of the lower Connecticut, changes in transportation and industry on the river, and the effects of human-induced environmental decline on the region.  Steve and I posed question after question trying to indicate the hook or angle for our research.  By the time we left, Wick’s suggestion was that the angle was “the future.”  When we left that day, we appreciated the help, but were not sure if this was the angle we were looking for.  For instance, how could a historian base the hook or angle of their research on the future?!?  However so much that this may seem absurd, there may be some credibility to his suggestion.

The future of the CT River is one of reclamation and recovery.  The angle for the Goodwin project just may be the environmental progress that has been made on the property.  So, we could discuss the use, focusing on the detrimental effects of human environment interaction, and then explain how Goodwin in working to reclaim the land.  All of this would be within the broader historical context of land-use.  The more I think about this prospect, the better it sounds.  There are only two obstacles to this “angle.”  First, our client only wants the history of the land up until the time when the college moved to the area, so I have to make sure that this approach will fall into what they are asking for.  The second obstacle is making sure that my project supervisor is on board.  I have a meeting with Steve tomorrow, so I guess we will find out then.

Sources:
http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/griswold/
http://www.amazon.com/History-Connecticut-River-The-Press/dp/1609494059

The Connecticut River.

Having lived in Connecticut Valley for most of my life, I have always had an affinity for the Connecticut River.  My ties to the river date back to my days living in a town on it’s Western bank.  Every time I rode with my father from my hometown we would literally go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.  Since I was young, I have crossed the river a countless number of times, utilizing the various bridges.  As a youngster, I would typically cross at Windsor Locks/East Windsor or Suffield/Enfield.  As a grew older, I usually crossed via Interstate 291 on my way to Manchester.  Now that I am grown, and live in Hartford, I typically cross either on the Bulkeley or Founder’s bridge.

Of course, just zooming over the river is not the only connection I have to what native Americans called ”the long tidal river.”  On one occasion, my father and I canoed from Enfield, CT to Middletown.  This trip opened my eyes to many things that I did not realize about the river and its uses.  First, in Northern CT the river is more shallow and has some rapids.  To make passage easier, Hartford citizens constructed the Enfield canal for ferries and ships.  Once you make down to the Windsor area, and especially Hartford, the river is very deep and slow moving.  For years, Hartford was a port city and the river, in many areas, was dredged out for easier travel of steam powered vessels.  South of Hartford, the canoe trip turned from a meandering sightseeing tour of low, flat farmlands to an all out struggle to row ourselves to Middletown before sunset.  As mentioned earlier, the river was very deep and slow moving and we had to use mostly our own strength to push the canoe to our destination.

While growing up on the banks of the Connecticut river, my family and I rode our bikes on what is now Windsor Locks Canal State Park.  This canal was originally built in the 19th century to aid ships and ferries traveling to points North of Windsor.  This canal, which was built following the Erie Canal, but has long since been abandoned with the advent of rail and highways.  In fact, the river itself is not the shipping lane that it once was.  Instead people have turned to the the highways and interstates that in many areas travel adjacent to the Connecticut River due to the low, flat lands created by a glacier that carved the valley many millenia ago.

I now know that the Connecticut River has an important role in the history of CT.  Beginning with geological foundations of the region, to settlement, industrialization, urban flight, and now, the reawakening of interest in living in the Capital city.  What many may not realize is that Connecticut, especially Hartford, history is directly tied to the river.  One cannot fully understand the essence of local history without recognizing the importance of the Connecticut River.  Although the people, landscape, land use, and even the river itself has changed over time, one things stands true, the Connecticut River has always and possibly will always have a profound effect on the residents of the region.  But, do Connecticut citizens realize its importance?  Hopefully, we can educate our youth to understand and respect the river so future generations can have as deep of a connection to the Connecticut River as I do.