Education's Histories

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October 28th, 2015 by Sara Clark and Adrea Lawrence

A Methods Guide to HES 2015

We are looking forward to attending the 2015 History of Education Society Annual Meeting to be held in St. Louis, MO, November 5-8. Now that our conference papers are submitted to our discussant (thanks for the extension, Jack Dougherty!), we can concentrate on our daily schedules during the conference.

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Thursday, 11/5
Friday, 11/6
Saturday & Sunday, 11/7-11/8

2015 Methods Guide

Last year’s “Method’s Guide” included oral history, teaching methods, digital approaches, quantitative research, ethnohistory, biography, multiple research methods, and publishing advice. The complete 2015 conference schedule is available through the conference website. Tim Lacy’s conference picks, assembled for the U.S. Intellectual History Blog, are also worth checking out as you make your choices this year.

While we believe we are in good company in suggesting methodology is an essential aspect of all HES panels, our guide gathers and organizes conference sessions which most readily represent themselves as methodologically inclined.  This year’s guide includes advice for publishing, archival histories, life histories, periodization, historiography, place-based analysis, teaching methods, and digital history.

Practicum on Publishing in the Field of Education History and Beyond…          

Thursday, 1:00-2:30 p.m., Market

Chair: Alisha Johnson, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign

Presenters: Nancy Beadie, University of Washington; Isaac Gottesman, Iowa State University; Dave Robertson, University of Missouri, St. Louis

Hosted by the Graduate Student Committee

Open Access Book Publishing Workshop     

Friday, 4:30-6:00 p.m., Gateway 4

Chair: Jack Dougherty, Trinity College

Presenters: Kristen Nawrotzki, Pädagogische Hochschule, Heidelberg, Germany; Mark Edington, Amherst College Press

Bring or share a laptop computer, and learn more at

Publication Possibilities for Historians of Education    

Saturday, 3:00-4:30 p.m., Gateway 5

Chair: Michael S. Hevel, University of Arkansas

Presenters: Timothy Reese Cain, University of Georgia; Jess Clawson, University of Florida; Ethan L. Hutt, University of Maryland; John Rury, University of Kansas

Archival Histories
Archival Histories of Composition and Rhetoric in Normal Schools and Teacher Institutes in the U.S. and Japan

Thursday, 4:30-6:00 p.m., Gateway 5

Chair and Discussant: Kelly Ritter, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign

Presenters: Lori Ostergaard, Oakland University; Beth Ann Rothermel, Westfield State University;Suzanne Bordelon, San Diego State University; Patrick Shorb, Akita International University, Japan

Writing Stories: Archival Histories of Composition and Rhetoric in U.S. High Schools, 1961–1976

Saturday, 8:30-10:00 a.m., Gateway 5

Chair and Discussant: Henrietta Rix Wood, University of Missouri–Kansas City

Presenters: Jonna Perrillo, University of Texas, El Paso; Candace Epps-Robertson, Michigan State University; Curtis Mason, Columbia College; Whitney Myers, Texas Wesleyan University

Life Histories
Life Histories and Women Educators in the U.S. and UK: Place, Work, School, and Identity

Saturday, 3:00-4:30 p.m., Gateway 3

Chair and Discussant: Jane Martin, University of Birmingham, UK 

Presenters: Annmarie Valdes, Loyola University Chicago; Christine Woyshner, Temple University; Kate Rousmaniere, Miami University Ohio; Lauri Johnson, Boston College and University of Nottingham

Roundtable Discussion: This American Life, Religion, and Regulation in American Public Schools

Friday, 10:15-11:45am, Market

This roundtable will allow participants to ask new questions about periodization and long-term change in American school governance, as well as the role of historical evidence in modern policy discussions.

Audience members are encouraged to listen to the This American Life podcast before attending the session.

Discussants: James Fraser, New York University; Robert Gross, Sidwell Friends School; Mike Johanek, University of Pennsylvania; Benjamin Justice, Rutgers University; Campbell Scribner, Ohio Wesleyan University

Periodizing Education’s Histories

Friday, 2:45-4:15 p.m., Soulard

Chair and Discussant: Wayne J. Urban, University of Alabama

Presenters: Barbara Beatty, Wellesley College; Ethan Schrum, Azusa Pacific University; Glenn P. Lauzon, Indiana University Northwest; Joseph L. Watras, University of Dayton

The Culture Wars in History and Historiography

Friday, 2:45-4:15 p.m., Market

Chair: Andrew Hartman, Illinois State University

Presenters: Andrew Hartman, Illinois State University; Adam Laats, Binghamton University; Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, The New School; Jonathan Zimmerman, New York University

Gateways to the West: Rethinking the History of Education from the Perspective of the North American West—An Historiographical Discussion

Friday, 4:30-6:00 p.m., Gateway 1

Co-Chairs: Nancy Beadie, University of Washington and  Joy Williamson-Lott, University of Washington

Contributors and Discussants: Matt Kelly, Stanford University; David Wallace Adams, Cleveland State University; Adrea Lawrence, University of Montana; Carlos Blanton, Texas A&M University; Ruben Flores, University of Kansas; David Garcia, University of California-Los Angeles; Members of the University of Washington Graduate Team—Michael Bowman, Teresa Frizell, Gonzalo Guzman, Jisoo Hyun, Joanna Johnson, Kathy Nicholas, Lani Phillips, Rebecca Wellington, La’akea Yoshida

Historiographical Trends in U.S. Women’s and Gender History: Revisiting Eisenmann’s “Creating a Framework for Interpreting U.S. Women’s Educational History”  

Saturday, 10:15-11:45 a.m., Location TBA  

Chair: Christine Woyshner, Temple University

Presenters: Linda Eisenmann, Wheaton College; Margaret A. Nash, University of California, Riverside; Victoria-Maria MacDonald, University of Maryland; Valinda Littlefield, University of South Carolina

Place-Based Analysis
Race, Space, and Education in the United States and Canada  

Friday, 10:15-11:45 a.m., Laclede

Chair and Discussant: Ebony Duncan, Washington University in St. Louis

Presenters: Hope Rias, Bridgewater College; Michael Suarez, University of Colorado, Boulder; Jason Ellis, University of British Columbia, Canada

Lessons from Ferguson: Race, Place, and the Alchemy of Educating a Public

Saturday, 1:15-2:45 p.m., Gateway 3

Chair and Discussant: Clarence Lang, University of Kansas

Presenters: Aaron Rife, Wichita State University; John Rury, University of Kansas; Matthew Davis, University of Missouri–St. Louis; Shante’ Lyons, University of Missouri–St. Louis; Benjamin Justice, Rutgers University 

Harlem’s Educational Visions: Teaching and Learning in Schools and Beyond

Saturday, 8:30-10:00 a.m., Soulard

Chair: Lauri Johnson, Boston College and University of Nottingham, UK

Discussant: Dionne Danns, Indiana University

Presenters: Daniel Perlstein, University of California, Berkeley; Ansley T. Erickson, Teachers College, Columbia University; Bethany L. Rogers, The College of Staten Island, CUNY            

Teaching Methods
Planning Courses with Students in Mind

Friday, 2:45-4:15 p.m., Gateway 4

Chair and Discussant: Campbell Scribner, Ohio Wesleyan University

Presenters: Milton Gaither, Messiah College; Hilary Moss, Amherst College; Hilary Moss, Amherst College; Paige Cunningham, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign

The Foundations of Education Project: An Ongoing Workshop on Politicizing and Expanding our Work in Colleges and Universities              

Saturday, 3:00-4:30 p.m., Market

Chair and Discussant: Jon Hale, College of Charleston

Presenters: Mario Rios Perez, Syracuse University; Campbell Scribner, Ohio Wesleyan University; Jennie Schmidt, Mt. Mercy University; Jacob Hardesty, Rockford University; Kevin S. Zayed, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Future Directions in Teaching Foundations and History

Sunday, 10:15-11:45 a.m., Gateway 4

Host: Jon Hale, College of Charleston

A discussion and meeting of HES Teaching Committee

Digital History
Doing Education History Research in Digital

Saturday, 3:00-4:30 p.m., Gateway 4

Chair and Discussant: Jack Dougherty, Trinity College

Presenters: Sara Clark, Indiana University; Barry M. Goldenberg, Teachers College, Columbia University; Adrea Lawrence, University of Montana

We’ll meet you in St. Louis!

September 3rd, 2015 by Barry M. Goldenberg

Youth Historians in Harlem: Exploring the Possibilities in Collaborative History Research Between Local Youth and Scholars (Part 2 of 2)

This is final of a two-part series by Barry M. Goldenberg focusing on methodological questions sparked by the Youth Historians in Harlem project. This Education’s Histories series will continue throughout 2015.

Earlier in the year as I was searching for an accessible text that would push my high school students to think about their relationship with history, I was reminded of Eric Foner’s cogently titled book, Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World. In his preface, Foner hinted at the idea that history is in fact not the province of scholars alone and that many groups of people have claims of ownership on history. Beyond a short exercise for my students, I realized that the Youth Historians project built upon this notion specifically within the context of the Academy: If historians are not the sole “owners” of history, then it becomes troublesome when only some of the many people who “own” history are authorized to produce their historical accounts and others, such as local youth scholars, are seemingly not. To be sure, Foner also understands that there are “commonly accepted professional standards” in the discipline that separate the lay person from the scholar, which remains particularly relevant in today’s era of digital accessibility. I wondered, then, what would happen—and what it would look like in practice—when high school students were trained in historical methodology, “authorizing” them as scholars in a way that recognized them as historians who produce historical knowledge. Apropos to the book’s subtitle, centering students as knowledge producers can change the way historians think about—or more accurately, conduct —our study of the past by challenging notions of hierarchy in the history of education. Currently, a hierarchy of who can write the past exists in historical research, and it seeps into our methodologies to create a hardened set of hierarchical norms that are difficult to disentangle. As scholars, how can we conduct historical studies about a community without their input and then later, invite these same subjects to accept this scholarship when they did not have a genuine role in producing it in the first place?

This is the second essay in a series about the Youth Historians in Harlem (YHH) project. Part 1 outlined the goals of YHH, introducing my collaboration with local high school youth to produce historical research. Relying on the questions put forth in the first installment, Part 2 examines how scholarly norms of hierarchy in methodological processes and authority in narrative-making can be explored and challenged by conducting collaborative oral history interviews with current high school students in a way that promotes shared knowledge-making.

Learning Oral History Methods, Together

Following the walking tour where I hoped students internalized the notion that they could have agency as historians, we moved forward with the project’s agenda: conducting oral history interviews with Harlem Prep alumni. Uncovering the history of Harlem Prep, an independent school that enrolled former high school dropouts and other non-traditional students in New York City from 1967 to 1975, remained my goal that I invited students to partake in. To prepare for interviews, students and I first conducted preliminary research by reading primary source newspaper articles from The New York Times and New York Amsterdam News, viewing the only known archival film on Harlem Prep, and studying secondary sources I gathered from prior research. Next, we spent approximately four and a half weeks learning oral history methods. With Ansley Erickson’s (Teachers College, Columbia University) guidance, I strategically planned a series of workshops about oral history research in incremental steps. We discussed how and why oral histories differ from journalistic interviews, the great opportunity that students had to document the unrecorded “living histories” of community elders, and the potential perils of relying on memory as a historical source.

Next, I sought out strategies of teaching oral history methods to the youth in ways that involved a similar level of rigor and scholarliness as my own training. Students listened to and discussed a sample oral history interview that I had conducted a year prior with a former Harlem Prep student (my only prior interview experience); I led a critical reflexive conversation with students where I reflected on my own nervousness at asking questions, which further helped students understand that we were learning these methods together. Then, I taught students how to operate the professional audio recording equipment. For the final step, students read over various tips for asking questions from the Center for Oral History at Columbia University and thematically prepared a list of potential questions to ask interviewees. Students devised questions both based on what they had learned from the previous Harlem Prep materials and from their own experiences attending school in Harlem, doing so in pairs around a theme that they were most interested in exploring. Our six themes, created collaboratively by students and I, were: Teachers and Teacher Pedagogy, School Policies, Students and Student Life, School Atmosphere and Environment, Historical Context of Harlem, and School Appearance/Physical Appearance. As an example of how our foci differed with regards to the specific questions we wanted to ask, I was most interested in teacher pedagogy, whereas students were very interested—and asked about—the school’s policies. With only about 60 minutes for each interview, I had not considered a topic such as school policies to be high priority. However, the youth interviewers, who are affected by policies every day and find them essential to their feelings about their own school, were very eager to learn about policies that contributed to Harlem Prep’s seemingly positive school atmosphere.

Seeking to expose students to a live interview before having them lead their own in small groups, I first scheduled a full-group interview with a former teacher at Harlem Prep with whom I had recently developed a relationship (but whom I had not interviewed). We had a packed conference room at the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College: myself and two students, together, served as lead interviewers who would ask the questions; two other students operated the Tascam audio recording equipment; and the other four students acted as “observers” who took notes on our interactions for later group reflection, accompanied by professor Ansley Erickson and another graduate student.

Admittedly, the interview was a bit unwieldy at first. Finding a rhythm and proper pacing as co-interviewers working together was initially quite challenging. I wanted the youth to start the interview and direct the dialogue as much as possible, with me interjecting only when I felt it was appropriate or needed to ask a particular question. Still, the students and I eventually developed a good cadence as we collectively thought that the interview was successful in both substance and process. Pedagogically, in preparation for future small-group interviews, it also served as a needed experience for students to see that, as Martha Howell and Walter Prevenier explain, interviewing takes supreme focus and is “no simple art.”


Together Barry Goldenberg and Youth Historians conduct a collaborative oral history interview with a Harlem Prep teacher. Photograph by Barry M. Goldenberg. Personal collection.


Breaking Down the Hierarchy: The Key to Collaborative Oral History Interviews

We conducted four subsequent interviews with Harlem Prep alumni, all whom neither I nor the students had met previously. I co-conducted all but one interview alongside three students: one co-lead interviewer, one audio operator, and one additional questioner/note taker. Notably, the co-lead student interviewer always initiated the dialogue, and I encouraged the students to frame the interview as much as possible. Employing this set-up made our goal clear—students were not just present; they were conducting the interviews as young scholars.

Although each interview had a different dynamic, collectively, they all flourished. First, the alumni were unanimously pleased to share their stories, as evidenced by each wanting to know about our future progress. One interviewee even said at the conclusion of her interview that, in response to us asking if she had any final comments: “I’m glad you all asked. I’m glad you came here to ask questions. So thank you for taking me down memory lane a little bit.” Of course, the students were excited to participate—their diligent preparation clearly illustrated that. And of course, the students and I learned novel information about Harlem Prep that will aid our future research (and possibly my later dissertation research).

Particularly noteworthy was how the power dynamics shifted from Ansley Erickson and I to the young people during the interviews. Interviewees seemed to recognize that the youth were also co-experts, and consequently, co-opted the purpose of the interview to speak directly to them in ways that transferred the history-making authority from the university scholars to the students and alumni. For example, one interviewee, over the course of almost one and a half hours, made eye contact almost exclusively with the youth. Although I ended up asking the majority of the questions for this particular interview, the Harlem Prep alumnus continually spoke to the students, as if I was absent from the table. The student operating the audio equipment declared to me after: “I didn’t say anything but he looked at me the whole time!” Another alumnus, who had faced traffic difficulties and arrived at the interview unsure of the setting, noticeably became more comfortable when introduced to the youth, softening the tone of her voice and overall disposition. She also commented appreciatively about student preparation and involvement—it mattered to her that the questions came from the youth, as evidenced in the transcript when she asked for the lead student interviewer’s name before starting the conversation.

After all, this was to be expected; Valerie Yow has argued that “interview dynamics,” such as similarities and differences of race and cultural norms between interviewer and narrator can affect the outcome of oral histories, and in our case, it seemed that the young people’s status as Harlem students mattered. Each of the youth researchers had unique insights and perspectives about schooling and education that significantly differed from mine, a white researcher—and outsider—who grew up in suburban St. Louis. It was important to understand that students’ experiences attending school in Harlem amounted to valuable “cultural capital” that felt synergistic with the experiences of former Harlem Prep students.

Of course, students’ presence not only affected the interviewees’ demeanor, but also the actual substance of the narratives being shared; students’ agency to ask questions altered the trajectory of the interview in unique—and uncharted—ways. Alessando Portelli poignantly notes that, “each person is at a crossroads of many potential stories,” and students’ genuine involvement elicited stories and interactions from the alumni that may have not been expressed in the same way—or at all—if I conducted the interviews alone. For instance, one interviewee spoke intimately about growing up in a “rough” neighborhood in New York City, using language and terminology that described some very intimate experiences that the high school youth could relate to differently than I could. From my vantage point, the resulting exchanges between the student and the Harlem Prep alumnus were rich and vivid, contributing to a transcript that seemed to be more detailed, if not possibly more honest and raw, because of the students’ participation. Taking this into account, I argue that the youth held a key role in producing “new” legitimate knowledge—both by their presence and by their questions—in noteworthy ways that challenged the hierarchical norms of (adult) scholars as sole knowledge producers. Furthermore, the fact that students were operating as researchers within the academy while simultaneously retaining their membership to the Harlem community helped legitimize the interviewees’ personal narratives as scholarship. Although the interviews surely stemmed from my fascination and logistical preparation, the students were the catalysts in this specific instance of oral history knowledge production. In fact, it was because the interviewees recognized students as having at least a co-equal role in the interviews that they seemed to be so open to sharing their stories in the fashion that they did.

An Intergenerational Context: Exploring Authority in the Transmission of Narratives

A further analysis of the nature of the interactions between local youth and their elders raises additional—albeit more speculative and less understood—queries about the transmission of the created narratives themselves. As Robert Perks and Alistair Thompson suggest, “schools are an important context for intergenerational oral history projects,” particularly for a project such as Youth Historians where the young people are positioned as authorizers of knowledge. The students, by virtue of their Harlem membership combined with their status as (novice) scholars part of a university research project, have a unique capacity different than mine to be the “receptors” of these elders’ untold stories.

One expected reason for this is that the narratives conveyed by the Harlem Prep alumni were highly personal, in part because, as the interviewees expressed with frustration, the story of Harlem Prep is relatively unknown. Thus, today’s current Harlem youth researchers can become the heirs of these alumni’s stories on Harlem Prep. They are the group of people who have the greatest “authority” and metaphorical claim on these stories; the interview exchanges between elders and youth were ultimately powerful because they represented something deeper and more ethereal like the passing of intergenerational knowledge in ways that that go beyond instances of sentimentality alone. Put another way, Michael Frisch suggests the term “sharing authority” to explain this rather intrinsically defined commodity; there was certainly something noteworthy and fascinating “about the nature of authority enacted and manifest, shared or sharable or not, within the actual oral histories” of the Harlem Prep alumni.

I sensed this most during one of the interviews that occurred outside Teachers College, Columbia University at an interviewee’s office building in Central Harlem, in which the Harlem Prep alumnus took an obvious interest in the students’ lives in Harlem. As she shared her story, I felt that she did so in a tone and vocal direction that hinted at the need for students to know these stories—her story of Harlem Prep—as a part of a greater narrative that would help put students’ current understanding of education and the greater Harlem community in perspective. From her depictions of racism in schools as a child to her current work in the community at an African-American-owned company, from my perspective, it was as if she was saying to students: “this is what you are a part of, now go out and use this knowledge for the better.”

Although most apparent in the aforementioned interview, each of the alumni were eager to share their educational stories in Harlem because of the unique youth-adult interviewer-to-interviewee dynamic. For an influential school like Harlem Prep that no longer physically exists but remains a substantial part of its alumni’s lives, current students in Harlem possess a particularly unique authority—or what social scientists might define as “positionality”—to partake in the sharing of this knowledge linked by community and educational genealogy. Ultimately, what this sharing means in the context of oral history methodology remains to be determined, and I hope that future projects explore this idea through similar undertakings with youth.

Rethinking the Role of Young People in Uncovering the Past

Overall, students and I both contributed in different ways to each of these interviews with the Harlem Prep alumni; outside of organizing the interviews, I asked many questions relevant to my research, concluded each interview segment, and provided assistance for the co-lead student interviewer when needed. Still, despite my presence, the youth also acted as primary participants in each interview, contributing in both very tangible and less understood ways as described in this essay.

The students’ and interviewees participation in the process described above illustrate that scholars must re-think how to conduct inquiries of the past. We would be wise then to include students in our research methods. Just as there are many owners of history, there should be many producers of it, too, particularly when knowledge is being created about one’s own community such as in the Youth Historians project. In these specific oral histories, students, trained in partnership with scholars, acted as the linchpin in the production of knowledge. If hierarchical norms of the discipline suggest that students cannot—or should not—lead in the process of knowledge production, these youth-led interviews challenge that. They also of course open new questions about who is “authorized” to produce knowledge and about the intricate nature of authority itself: how does the meaning of these historical stories change when received by local youth scholars, both in the context of historical scholarship and to the community at large? As the students and I begin to create digital exhibits in subsequent months, we must continue to unravel the many complications—and opportunities—latent in sharing these youth-scholar-community generated stories that shift from questions that the young people want to ask (i.e., the interviews) to the stories that the young people want to tell.

Barry M. Goldenberg is a Ph.D. candidate in the History and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME). Outside of exploring youth-scholar collaborations through his Youth Historians program, Barry’s historical research examines educational activism in Harlem in the 1960s and 1970s. He can be reached at The author would like to thank Professor Ansley Erickson for not only graciously helping to construct and then revise, this manuscript, but for all her support and guidance on a day-to-day basis with the Youth Historians project. Without her help and her co-direction, the Youth Historians project, and this manuscript, would not be possible. In addition, thank you to the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME), particularly Professor Ernest Morrell and Veronica Holly, for providing the resources, encouragement, and initial spark for this project. Finally, thank you to each of the high school student participants for making this collaboration come to fruition.

Jack Dougherty of Trinity College and Michael Bowman of Iowa State University served as peer reviewers for this essay. Education’s Histories is grateful for their careful attention to and thoughtful feedback on this essay.


March 6th, 2015 by Barry M. Goldenberg

Youth Historians in Harlem: Exploring the Possibilities in Collaborative History Research Between Local Youth and Scholars (Part 1 of 2)

This is Part 1 of a two-part series by Barry M. Goldenberg focusing on methodological questions sparked by the Youth Historians in Harlem project. This Education’s Histories series will continue throughout 2015.

 “Flipping” the Script on Historical Knowledge: A Youth-Led Walking Tour

For three weeks, seven high school students, Ansley Erickson (Teachers College, Columbia University) and I strategized about creating a historical “walking tour” of Harlem for a small graduate class. However, there would be one caveat—local high school students in Harlem would be positioned as the resident tour guides and historical experts. The goal was for high school youth to lead an informational tour around the neighborhood, helping graduate students link their readings to the specific spatial context in which the history had unfolded. In preparatory sessions, as a group, we discussed elements of a walking tour, made decisions on how to design the tour as a history of young people in Harlem, and most importantly, chose seven spots or areas in Harlem (one space or place for each student) to present during the walk.

Youth Historians in Harlem - Walking Tour 1

One of the Youth Historians pointing out to both his peers and graduate students the significance of this particular street corner on 135th Street and Lenox Avenue, nicknamed “The Campus,” which served as an iconic speaking location for African-Americans leaders such as Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. Photograph and caption by Barry M. Goldenberg. Personal collection.

Youth Historians in Harlem - Walking Tour 2

Another Youth Historian student explaining to the group the history and architecture of Wadleigh High School, one of the oldest public schools in New York City, as well as discussing his current experiences attending a co-located school in this same building. Photograph and caption by Barry M. Goldenberg. Personal collection.

It was this final task where our collaboration first confronted some initial tensions, challenging notions of hierarchy and authority within the norms of the typical teacher-student relationship. Despite my constant plea that students select spaces in Harlem that might have been significant to young people, they were reluctant to do so. I had hoped they would identify places beyond the well-known and famous, using their perspectives as young people to remind us to look for the places that mattered in students’ daily lives, such as popular historical after-school student hangouts. Although students’ lack of exhaustive knowledge of Harlem’s history was a barrier, they also had difficulty identifying their own ideas as valid in comparison to what had, elsewhere, been validated as the most important places in Harlem. Furthermore, students expressed apprehension about stepping into the role of an oral “storyteller,” weaving together both the history of the place and their own lived experiences—essentially, shifting the historical narrative within this (new) teacher-student context.

We ended up deciding on an eclectic list of stops that reflected our shared opinions. Whereas I thought mostly about specific buildings, the students also suggested broader spaces, which reflected their lived experiences in Harlem. For example, during the tour one student discussed 125th Street and how it once served as an iconic location for restaurants, shops, and entertainment for youth. He also talked about how this space still serves as an important place in Harlem for youth today, which he elaborated on during the walking tour, beyond his notes and rehearsal sessions. Our richest preparatory discussions occurred when we discussed how to highlight students’ points of view, in hopes of making the tour more valuable and engaging for the graduate students in ways that Alan Peshkin and others have long advocated for. For instance, during the tour, one student presented the history of the public housing project where he lives close to Columbia, commenting on the history of the space and his own experiences feeling excluded from the University and its adjacent, more affluent, housing structure.

In practice, the walking tour “flipped the script” as high school students taught graduate students about Harlem’s educational history. The dialectic exchanges between high school students and graduate students blurred the lines of hierarchy in who possesses historical knowledge, in what forms this knowledge is shared, and in what setting—also forcing me to re-assess my own assumptions about the exchange of knowledge more broadly. For decades, Hayden White has argued that the history discipline is closer to the literary tradition than the social sciences, and in doing so, that histories are actually “verbal fictions” which are more closely tied to the author’s imagined narrative then any set of established “facts.” White’s push against the traditional orthodoxy of how we, as scholars, codify knowledge became apparent during the walking tour. Students’ constructed narratives of Harlem’s history and its relation to their own lived experiences as youth were no less “historical” than those of established scholars—at least as internalized by the graduate students, many of them pre-service teachers, who were learning about Harlem’s educational history for the first time. Thus, by taking on the role as teachers and tour guides, students challenged the discipline’s acceptance that knowledge can only be created by credentialed historians. Although historical accuracy, on its most basic level, remains important, events like a walking tour lend nuance to notions of legitimacy in historical research, particularly around oral displays of perceived knowledge (or lack thereof) by the historical “storyteller.” Furthermore, similar experiences also underscore the role that other factors—such as personal feelings, perspectives, and social power—can play in exchanges of historical information. Education scholars from other disciplines have illustrated the benefits of pre-service teachers learning from youth, and there is no reason this principle should not be engaged by historians of education. In the case of the walking tour, having high school students step into the role of teachers enriched graduate students’ understanding of young people in Harlem’s rich history. Pedagogically, preparing and leading the tour helped authorize the high school students as knowers, researchers, and teachers of historical knowledge—a necessary intellectual belief among students and starting point for more in-depth collaborative research later in the year.

Building on the Past: Origins of the Youth Historians in Harlem (YHH) Project

Students who participated in the walking tour were part of Youth Historians in Harlem (YHH)—a project that developed out of my particular graduate student context. As a historian in training and a doctoral student in History and Education at Teachers College, I am primarily concerned with producing new scholarship and historical knowledge. Yet, I also participate in another methodological tradition that informs my work (and my interest) with young people: Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR), a research framework that centers youth as capable knowledge producers and agents of change by having them participate in social justice-themed research, particularly in ways that “break down the barriers between the researcher and the researched.” As I thought about weaving these two different contexts of history and YPAR together, a compelling line of inquiry arose: how can young people participate in the production of historical knowledge, particularly in the history of education?

For the past two years, I have worked with local public high school students in an after-school program in a small high school in Harlem. The program encouraged students to discuss history beyond the textbook, introducing them to scholarly research practices that enabled them to learn the history of their Harlem neighborhood by using “the city as [a] teacher,” with a goal of becoming “critical public historians.” By “critical,” I wanted to students to not only be able to understand history as a source of knowledge or information, but as a source of identity that could be both internalized and shared with others in their community. Students benefited both academically and socially; for example, YHH helped students develop their public speaking skills, learn how to navigate archives and collegiate settings, and perform basic research online. Students also demonstrated an increased interest in history and a sense of empowerment as emerging “scholars.”

I benefited as well. Helping these high school students find historical sources, read and interpret them, and learn about Harlem improved my thought processes as a scholar. I began to develop a more nuanced understanding of Harlem in the present as it pertained to education—what interested students, the significance of their family histories, and their challenges living and learning in the neighborhood. Participating in historical dialogue with high school students about their present-day perspectives of Harlem also led me to think about my research methodologies. I was reminded of what Joyce Appleby wrote over a decade ago: that historians must “make more salient the embeddedness of history in the present,” and that doing so can help us “view the whole from a different angle of vision.” Working with local youth, I realized, could provide a new contextual portal through which to create, and examine, historical questions about education.

Exploring a Collaboration Between Local Youth and Historians of Education

This academic year, the students and I will work together on a broad-scale original research project on the history of education in Harlem. Before jumping into a yearlong collaborative research project, however, I wanted to first create a “bridge” connecting students’ previous years work to our new focus on collaboration and original research where their voices would be centered—the youth-focused Harlem walking tour served this purpose. The current group consists of six African-American and two Latino males of varying academic skill sets; seven of them are returning 12th grade students who previously participated in the program, and one is a new 11th grade student. Each student volunteers to meet twice a week for two hours at Teachers College, Columbia University. The topic of our collective inquiry is a school called Harlem Prep that existed from 1967 to 1975 and is generally absent from the historical record. Holding classes in an old supermarket, Harlem Prep was an independently financed “community school” that served former high school dropouts, recovering drug addicts, Vietnam War veterans, older adults, and other non-traditional students. Even with limited resources and a challengingly diverse population, the school sent hundreds of students to college, including many dozens to highly selective institutions.

This year’s collaboration involves three phases. In the first, planning phase, students and I devise a research strategy and compelling historical questions for the year, as well as learn the historical context of Harlem in the 1960s and 1970s based on my preliminary research on Harlem Prep. In the second, research phase, students learn oral history methodology and prepare to conduct oral history interviews with Harlem Prep alumni. Finally, in the third, dissemination phase, we will create digital exhibits (using Omekacontent management system and Neatline plug-in) to share our oral history interviews with both the general public (particularly the Harlem community) and the scholarly community, as well as hold a year-end event where we present our collaborative research-in-progress together at Teachers College, Columbia University.

This project faces unanswered questions not only about historical content but about the conceptual and methodological underpinnings of historical practice. In two subsequent essays, I will explore the opportunities and tensions involved when scholars work with youth apprentices in genuinely collaborative ways:

  1. When historians and local youth conduct historical research together, how does their work challenge notions of hierarchy and authority and/or complicate ideas about legitimate knowledge?
  2. How do processes of historical research shift, and responsibilities change, when creating history with students via online digital formats?

I approach these questions with a sense of playfulness and a necessary comfort with the unknown. As sociologist Norman Denzin writes:

Since one can be trained only in what is already known, training sometimes incapacitates one from learning new ways; it makes one rebel against what is bound to be at first loose and even sloppy. But you cling to such vague images and notions, if they are yours, and you must work them out. For it is in such forms that original ideas, if any, almost always first appear.

Denzin’s poignant explanation can, and should, apply to scholars in history. As historians of education often located within colleges of education, we have a unique opportunity to probe for new methodologies by working with youth. Our affinity for studying the education histories of students offers the possibility to research with them, in ways that might be less then optimal for historians located outside colleges of education. Karen Graves recently reminded readers about shrinking opportunities for historians of education and how we must better elucidate the importance of our field in colleges of education with the increased pressures on the liberal arts in an era of school reform. Projects like Youth Historians can help answer her call to action—researching history with local youth allows us to remain true to our discipline while also contributing to the lives of students through tangible hands-on work that is needed in education today. Within this context, and as we proceed into our collective inquiry on Harlem Prep, I hope to spark a dialogue about the many untapped synergies among historians of education, historical research, and local youth.

Barry M. Goldenberg is a Ph.D. student in the History and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME). Outside of exploring youth-scholar collaborations through his Youth Historians program, Barry’s historical research examines educational activism in Harlem in the 1960s and 1970s.He can be reached at The author would like to thank Professor Ansley Erickson for not only graciously helping to construct and then revise, this manuscript, but for all her support and guidance on a day-to-day basis with the Youth Historians project. Without her help and her co-direction, the Youth Historians project, and this manuscript, would not be possible. In addition, thank you to the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME), particularly Professor Ernest Morrell and Veronica Holly, for providing the resources, encouragement, and initial spark for this project. Finally, thank you to each of the high school student participants for making this collaboration come to fruition.

Campbell Scribner of Ohio Wesleyan University and Michael Suarez of the University of Colorado at Boulder served as peer reviewers for this essay. Education’s Histories is grateful for their careful attention to and thoughtful feedback on this essay.



July 24th, 2014 by Sara Clark and Adrea Lawrence

Tool Review: Working in WordPress and InDesign, a Conversation

A Bit About the Beginning of Education’s Histories

Adrea: We began our collaboration at the History of Education Society (HES) meeting in Nashville in early November 2013. I had set up the site,, in 2012 with the intention of publishing solo. Though the bones of the site were in place on a WordPress site, no content was published. I knew we wanted to focus on methodological issues in the history of education, but I was unsure where to begin. Conceptually, it was clear the site could address some things that was not part of what I was hearing by lots of people at HES conferences: applications and tools that can be used for historical research, reading education outside of schooling, and what education history might look like if we treat “education” as a methodological frame instead of a definitional starting point. In thinking and talking about these issues with colleagues, I have been repeatedly impressed at the innovations that folks like Jack Dougherty and Andy Anderson are developing. I have also been struck by the incredulous expressions some of their presentations garnered. I wondered, “Do education historians have Ludditic tendencies? If so, what does this mean for how they [we] conceptualize the field and its movement?” When Sara and I talked after a long day of conferencing in early November, I felt like our conversations had given me some traction in how to begin the first essay. Our collaboration released the sense of being stymied.

Sara: I first met Adrea on the page as I read her Lessons From an Indian Day School (2011) in Fall 2012. I can remember breathing a sigh of relief, as I felt I had found someone in active pursuit of education history, the type of history that did not feel bounded by classroom walls or long retold institutional narratives. We both wanted to create a space that encouraged questions to emerge, a place for uncertainty. Questions like “Who and what is a teacher?” “How can education historians demonstrate and promote interdisciplinary scholarship?” and “What is the relationship between the historian and her subject(s)?” are just a few that have allowed me to locate methodological uncertainties. Our collaboration was born out of the spirit of this shared pursuit. In November 2013, I was wrapping up work co-curating an exhibit at Indiana University’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures and turning my attention toward the digitization project of the same exhibit, “Ojibwe Public Art, Ostrom Private Lives.” This project allowed me to dive head first into emergent museum digitization practices while simultaneously venturing into unknown territory with Education’s Histories. The digital museum project was built using Omeka, a free and open-source content management system (CMS), which enables cataloguing of digital collections, while Education’s Histories relies on WordPress, another free and open-source CMS, known for its reliance on plugins to provide additional features.

WordPress—Talking About It and Working Within It

Adrea: I have been using WordPress for several years for my course websites. In fact, I have conducted online courses with WordPress and some of the available BuddyPress plugins. I felt like a competent user, though I didn’t—and still don’t—know how to code in html and css. Rather than using a new platform, such as Drupal, I opted to set the Education’s Histories site up with WordPress. One of the challenges and motivators in operating in a digital environment is that the aesthetic sensibilities can help convey the modus operandus of the endeavor. For example, I am a historian, and I love and appreciate how footnotes document and provide contextual information about a writer’s thinking and argument construction. Because of this, I like footnotes to appear with the text they reference. In print form, book publishers have lately tended to sequester notes at the end of chapters or at the end of books. This makes them difficult to follow as one reads. Many journals, like the History of Education Quarterly, do print footnotes, which allows the reader to read the body text in tandem with the note text. This does not work so well, however, in a scrolling digital environment. That was the primary reason for using the Side Matter plugin on WordPress: they make the reader’s job easier and more informed. The only constraint in using the Side Matter plugin was finding a theme with which it would work, and that turned out to be relatively easy. I chose The Frances Wright theme developed by ThemeSweet and named after the illustrious Scottish feminist, abolitionist, and advocate for free schools. Not only does the theme work with the Side Matter plugin, but it also has clean lines and ample white space. Collaboration on has proven to be quite easy. WordPress allows for multiple contributors, editors, and administrators. In adding tools to and modifying the site, we met regularly on Google Hangouts, which allowed us to hold up drawings that each of us had done to visualize the site, talk face to face digitally, and literally show each other what we were seeing on our screens through the screenshare feature. In fact, it was Google Hangouts that signaled to us that collaboration with InDesign might well be difficult, if not impossible.

Sara: As Education’s Histories has grown, so has our awareness of what efforts do and do not scale. We’re excited to begin publishing articles and review essays written by new collaborators. With this hopefully comes increased site traffic and readers with the desire to cite these works in future research. Although we’ve been preparing for the questions that follow since the beginning of Education’s Histories, we are now more than ever aware of the need to scale our curatorial efforts in order to better manage the site for user experience. Unlike Omeka, the WordPress Dashboard does not easily enable archiving and connections among related articles and essays. The built-in options are more familiar for their blog-like qualities, rather than as digital scholarly publications. This visual discrepancy leaves us in search of plugins to fill these needs. For example, we are currently testing the Organize Series plugin as a possible solution for linking essays published in serial. We also utilize the built-in category function to label articles according to their general subject in order to make them more searchable as our catalog grows. At this point we are satisfied with with the WordPress platform, specifically for its easy theme-based page and post design. However, we remain anxious to find solutions to problems of scale that will encourage increased reader accessibility to and searchability of previously published essays and articles.

InDesign—the Beauty and the Frustration

Adrea: Because we were using Side Matter on the Education’s Histories site, we wanted to continue using sidenotes for the pdf versions of essays that we were publishing. Microsoft Word for Mac, which we both use, does not offer the possibility of formatting footnotes as sidenotes. After doing multiple searches on how one might create a printable file that uses sidenotes, we settled on Adobe’s InDesign, which is part of its Creative Suite. Being at large research universities proved a benefit in this case—both of our institutions offered the software without additional cost to us. I had drawn the maps for my book, Lessons from an Indian Day School, with Adobe Illustrator, so I felt like I could learn InDesign with practice. I found a Dynamic Sidenotes script that we could run in InDesign, which looked to be both flexible and easy to use. And if Sara and I could share files and work collaboratively on the print versions of essay by sharing our files on Box, all the better. This proved to be our hangup. Most of the Creative Suite software was already loaded onto my computer, but it was version 5. Sara had access to version 6. Both of us are used to working in Word, where different versions typically do not prove to be a disaster, particularly if it is a basic document file. InDesign was different, though. I began putting together “Our Trickster, the School” in InDesign, version 5, and saving it in our shared Box folder. When Sara began to work on the document, I could no longer open it. We thought we found a workaround by saving it as a backwards compatible file type, but much of the formatting was either lost or garbled. This was more than frustrating because it defeated not only our attempts to collaborate through this software, but it deformed the design, which was the central reason for us using InDesign in the first place. It also meant that only one of us could put together the print version of each essay. This had significant implications for our research and writing schedules. In comparing summer schedules, we determined that I would create the print file for “Our Trickster, the School.” Before starting over in formatting the essay in InDesign version 5, I asked our tech office if they had Creative Suite version 6 and a license that would permit me to use it. They did, and they loaded it onto my computer. This took half a day. After beginning again on formatting the essay, I completed a portrait version of the file, which looked good on my monitor. When I printed it out, though, it looked very compressed and busy. I changed the width of the sidenotes and the margins for the essay, and it still looked compressed and busy. So, I scrapped that file and created a new one. This time, the essay was in landscape format. When I finished formatting the new version of the essay, I liked it much better. There was considerably more white space, the sidenotes were complementary to the text, and the graphics all came out well.

Sara: The potential for capturing and understanding history creatively stands out as both underutilized and one that digital tools are particularly well-suited to encourage. Although it’s been seven years since I’ve used InDesign with any regular frequency, it’s mainstay toolbar features remain familiar, and I looked here when hoping to create a color-matched theme for our pdf publication. We utilized ColorZilla, a free browser add-on available for Chrome and Firefox, which provides an eyedropper, color picker, and color analyzer. This tool allowed me to use an eyedropper, much like the one found on the InDesign toolbar, to get a color reading from anywhere in the browser. In our case, I made color readings from our logo at These readings could then be easily pasted into InDesign’s color swatches tool using the RGB color model for an exact match. These color readings were also easily shared with Adrea, even as we navigated our versioning issues.

A Bit About the Future of Education’s Histories

Sara: Education’s Histories remains wholeheartedly a work-in-progress. Our web publication skills are primitive but our desire to engage in conversations about methodological innovation and ongoing research is here now. We needed to start yesterday. If this essay is not your first foray into our project, then you have likely noticed that we consider our webspace to be a laboratory. It’s a place for testing web applications and modifying page design as we learn new skills. We hope those who write with us consider these as opportunities. We feel that waiting for perfection may hold back learning and certainly prevents the conversation from beginning. We know we have more to learn; this is intentional. By choosing to share our works-in-progress, we hope others will lean in to share their own skills and growing expertise. In the eight months since joining Adrea’s adventure, I’ve learned to listen even more broadly than before. Last week I was listening as Evan MacGonagill, who writes for Educating Women (blog of the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education at Bryn Mawr College) shared thoughts on, “Technology and Feminism: Rethinking our Digital Tools.” Empowered by a recent feminist digital humanities training session McGonagill, the Center’s Assistant Director, reminded readers that technology is never free from social power structures:

Clean and elegant design, by many definitions “good design,” makes for a smooth and pleasant user experience but also narrows the group of people who have access to what it offers. An important extension of this idea is that technology is never neutral: it is always situated in context, relationships, and history.

We are listening and hopeful to keep our conversation, design, and technology necessarily open-ended.