History chairs resigns over curriculum changes

November did not get off to the right start for sophomore history secondary education major Lauren Windle. The day after her pick for president, Sen. John Kerry, conceded the election, she found out the well-respected chair of the history department, Daniel Crofts, had resigned.

Because he disapproved of the proposed new secondary education curriculum, Crofts stepped down as chair, a position he had held for the past eight years.

“We were upset,” Windle said, describing the reaction she shared with her housemates who are also history majors. “But we understand why he’s doing it.”

Crofts said his decision was very difficult to make, especially after all the time and effort he had spent leading the department through its curricular transformation, which he had championed as former president of the faculty senate.

“The new secondary education curriculum does not seem to me to meet the needs of students as well as it should or to reflect the spirit of Academic Transformation,” he wrote in an e-mail to history students and faculty announcing his resignation.

The new program, if approved, would only affect freshmen and sophomores, since juniors and seniors would be grandfathered to remain in the old program.

Croft’s resignation is a symbol of friction between the history and secondary education departments that has resulted from their attempt to rework the history secondary education curriculum so it meets new state mandates and accommodates transformation.

“Of course there’s conflict and misunderstanding,” Terry O’Connor, dean of the School of Education, said. “But we’ll work it out.”

The proposed secondary education sequence would require history secondary education majors to take 36 credits, the equivalent of seven professional education units and two liberal learning units. The credit for field experience would be reduced from 12 to eight, while the overall number of credits for the program would increase from 28 to 36.

O’Connor acknowledged that time spent in the field would be significantly less but stressed the importance of students learning more about teaching theories. He said teachers are now expected to be “scholars of learning” who are able to gauge their students’ development and adjust their instruction accordingly.

However, Crofts said that “the assumption has been until this past academic year that practical field experience is what matters most.”

According to Crofts, there would be six core courses for the new secondary education program, two of which would be taken sophomore year, two junior year, one before student teaching senior year and the last also during senior year.

Crofts said that the proposed syllabi for these courses are full of redundancies and they could be consolidated into two “solid, tightly developed” courses that would leave students with room to take electives or study abroad.

Crofts said the six syllabi were what finally pushed him over the edge. “The only way I could indicate they didn’t have my approval was to resign as chair,” he said.

Crofts said these six courses create scheduling difficulties, preventing students who want to graduate in four years from taking electives that could allow them to study a language at the intermediate level, pursue a minor or study abroad.

Derek Peterson, assistant professor of history, e-mailed the faculty on Nov. 4 to state, “There is a wide world of inquiry that the School of Education is shutting its students off from. It is bad teaching, and bad policy, to limit students in this way.”

O’Connor said negative feedback is the result of misconceptions held by those who were not involved in the proposal that the Teacher Education Advisory Council made.

He believes the program consists of the right course load and makes sense under the new theories of teacher preparation.

With the secondary education program pending approval, history secondary education majors do not yet have program planners, and sophomores in particular feel left in the dark.

“I feel like I’m in limbo,” Windle said. She said she wished she had an advisor in the secondary education department to guide her through the changes. Secondary education students, however, are based in the department of their academic area.

Although Crofts resigned just before registration, he will continue to advise any students who come to his office with questions or concerns.