Bringing Labor History To Our Schools

01 Sep 2009 9:27 PM | Posted by GNHLHA

From Newsletter Volume 5, Number 2

Submitted by Stephen Kass

Paul Cole, the executive director of the American Labor Studies Center, will present a power point presentation about the ALSC website for teachers on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 from 4-5:30 at the Labor Center, 267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513. The event is co-sponsored by the New Haven Federation of Teachers and the Greater New Haven Labor History Association.

Integrating Labor Studies into the K-12 Curriculum

Paul F. Cole, Executive Director, American Labor Studies Center   


This workshop will provide participants with standards-based resources and strategies for integrating labor history and the economic, cultural, social and political contributions of the American labor movement into the K-12 curriculum.  Materials from the ALSC web site include a bibliography, biographies, information on child labor, documents, a filmography, a glossary, labor songs, labor quotes, photos, policy issues, primary sources, simulations on organizing and collective  bargaining and  a timeline.  Complete course descriptions and lessons will also be reviewed.  Elementary, social studies, English, music and arts teachers will discover relevant curriculum materials.

The following article appeared in American Teacher, the official publication of the American Federation of Teachers [AFT]) in September 2003.

You can call it one of our nation’s untold tales. It’s the story of the American labor movement and the role workers and their unions have played – and continue to play – in our country’s political, economic and cultural life. And even though teachers are among the most unionized sectors of the American workforce, our public schools have not done a very good job of sharing that history with school children. As a result, this rich history is a mystery for many Americans.

The American Labor Studies Center (ALSC) is determined to change that. In 2003, AFT leaders, members and staff gathered in Washington, D.C., for a National Labor in the Schools Symposium organized by the ALSC. The focus of the conference was how labor education can be infused into the nation’s schools. Workshops and the general session covered topics such as labor and the arts, the National Labor College and California’s acclaimed labor curriculum “Golden Lands, Working Hands.”

“The goal of the American Labor Studies Center is not to indoctrinate or proselytize but provide students with an opportunity to explore the many facets of a very complex and important part of our nation’s history and contemporary life,” said ALSC executive director Paul Cole, who is a former AFT vice president. One of the principal aims of the ALSC is to collect, create and disseminate labor history curricula and related materials to K-12 teachers nationwide.

With the help of the AFL-CIO, the AFT is in a good position to bring a solid labor education curriculum into many of the nation’s schools. Denise Mitchell, assistant to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, outlined results of a new public opinion poll on the labor movement that highlights the critical need to educate the public and the next generation on the role of unions. Only half of those surveyed say they know a fair amount about unions; and minorities, women and younger people are the least knowledgeable. A majority of the public also believes that unions work more for their members than for the public good.

Mitchell sees labor education in the schools as a great way to clarify misperceptions and empower young workers – especially because the poll shows the lowest negative union ratings in a decade. “If we would all do the every day work of telling the union story, touching people’s lives and reaching a new generation, we could really get the story out to the public,” said Mitchell.

The American Labor Studies Center is dedicated to disseminating labor history and curricula. Visit their web site,

Greater New Haven Labor History Association  •  267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513 • •

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