Education bill would mandate classes on labor history

  • NH Rep. Eric Gallager speaks to the House Education Committee about HB1144, which would require public middle and high schools to teach about labor history. NH House of Representatives Committee

Monitor staff
Published: 1/23/2022 9:01:26 AM
Modified: 1/23/2022 9:00:06 AM

An education bill filed in the New Hampshire House of Representatives this month seeks to make lessons about labor history a mandatory part of New Hampshire middle and high school history curriculum.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Eric Gallager (D-Concord), told the House Education Committee on Tuesday that adding teaching about labor history in schools would give students knowledge that could be useful to them in practice when they enter the workforce.

“One thing I heard a lot in the school system growing up was that teachers are trying to prepare students for the workplace, for getting a job, for what they’re going to do when they grow up,” Gallager said. “It’s biased toward the employers’ point of view, and there’s not really as much education from the workers’ point of view of what sort of skills they might need to stand up to their boss, to fight for higher wages or better working conditions.”

The bill, HB1144, would update RSA 89:11, the state law that regulates history education, to include a line requiring instruction of labor history. Currently, the law requires lessons about civic engagement, the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions, the government’s role in making laws and regulating economic activity, and how intolerance and discrimination can lead to genocide such as the Holocaust.

According to the bill, the lessons would include information about notable historic strikes and unionization drives, and other labor actions such as the collective bargaining process or work-to-rule.

“A way to help students better learn how to do that would be to look at some historical examples of how exactly the labor movement has fought for improved workplace conditions in the past,” Gallager said. “I think that would help improve things for students so they know what powers they have when they step into the workplace.”

The bill is currently in the House Education Committee. If it passes in committee, it will move to the House floor for a vote.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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