history

History: A Troubled Field Likely to Get Worse

Here’s a sign of the times: the head of the American Historical Association says departments should integrate communication, collaboration, and three other “basic skills” into their programs. In other words. Jobs in history are dwindling, so graduate students in the field had better prepare some backup plans. I heard the same thing in literary studies […]

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Humanities, Pretty Much Dead, Are Mostly a Hunt for Racism and Sexism

A number of prominent liberal intellectuals, such as Leon Wieseltier, acknowledge that the humanities are in trouble. There “really is a cultural crisis,” he said at a recent Aspen Ideas Festival. This is an improvement over the mass denial of a few years ago, when the standard retort to conservatives went something like this: “You […]

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Progressives Shoot at Shakespeare

Dana Dusbiber’s statement in The Washington Post deploring the teaching of Shakespeare in high school English courses evoked universal scorn and laughter. Her thesis is simple: Shakespeare is too old, white, male, and European for 21st-century American students, especially those of color.  His language is dense and unfamiliar, enough so that Dusbiber herself can’t always understand it.  […]

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The Campus Assault on American History

As a professional historian at Hamilton College, I teach my students that the United States was founded on the principles of limited government, voluntary exchange, respect for private property, and civil freedom.  Does any sane parent believe that more than a tiny fraction of students graduate from college these days with a deep and abiding […]

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Politics and the Race/Class/Gender Trinity

My City University of New York colleague David Gordon has penned a convincing analysis about the current state of history in higher education. I share, and fully endorse, his critique about the direction of the field, with the vise-grip of the race/class/gender trinity “distort[ing] historical enquiry.” Stressing above all else victimization and oppression poorly serves […]

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The Mangling of American History

The evolution of the historical profession in the United States in the last fifty years provides much reason for celebration.  It provides even more reason for unhappiness and dread.  Never before has the profession seemed so intellectually vibrant.  An unprecedented amount of scholarship and teaching is being devoted to regions outside of the traditional American […]

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Oliver Stone’s “History” as Propaganda

The 1997 film Good Will Hunting features Matt Damon’s character in a conversation with Harvard students, touting Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States as a way to better understand the American past. The scene was cringe-worthy for at least two reasons. First, there was something more than a little off-putting about a movie whose lead character demonstrated […]

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Our ‘Historically Illiterate’ Young

David McCullough on 60 Minutes last night: “We are raising children in America today who are by and large historically illiterate…I ran into some students on university campuses who were bright and attractive and likeable. And I was just stunned by how much they didn’t know. One young woman at a university in the Midwest […]

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Pleasure Island

The kids! The boys! They’re all donkeys! – Jiminy Cricket Beloit College recently released its annual “Mindset List,” the findings of a yearly survey which attempts to take stock of the cultural touchstones that each generation of college freshman is, or is not, familiar with. Most of the observations are benign: “They can’t picture people […]

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How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

American history has been radically transformed on our campuses. Traditional topics are now not only marginalized but “re-visioned” to become more compatible with the dominant race/class/gender paradigm. In two posts last fall, I took a look at U.S. history offerings at Bowdoin College. The liberal arts college, one of the nation’s finest, long enjoyed a reputation as a training […]

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The Perils of Student Choice

The release of SAT scores last week gives strong ammunition to proponents of a core curriculum. As reported in the Wall Street Journal , reading scores hit their lowest figure in four decades. Writing scores hit their lowest number since a writing component was added to the exam six years ago; in fact, writing scores […]

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Look What they’ve Done to U.S. History

If you doubt that leftist activists now dominate the study and teaching of U.S. history, take a look at the program for the 2013 American Historical Association conference in New Orleans. The pattern  is similar to the University of Michigan’s history department, discussed here yesterday—a heavy emphasis on race, class, and gender, with more “traditional” […]

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In History—the Obsession with Race, Class and Gender

The University of Michigan history department has 28 tenured or tenure-track professors whose research specialties in some way relate to U.S. history after 1789. Race is the favorite topic; at least eleven of the department’s professors indicate that their research in some way deals with race in America. Gender is the next prominent area of […]

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The No-Art Art History Textbook

In a story helpfully marked “Not the Onion,” Gawker reports that Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design is requiring students to purchase a $180 art history textbook that has no images of art at all. The father of one student says the publisher of the book, Global Visual and Material Culture: Prehistory to 1800, […]

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Capitalism and Western Civilization: Liberal Education

Speaking of business and management majors, Douglas Campbell and James E. Fletcher argue in A Better Way to Educate Professionals that their students “should have a strong base in the traditional liberal arts and the physical sciences….to effectively work with people to understand and solve problems as well as to accomplish individual, organizational, and social goals.” […]

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How ‘Money Men’ Hijacked a Famous College

Crossing the snow-covered Dartmouth green one night, I stopped, looked around, and asked, “Who owns this place, and by what right?” More than half a century later, I have still not resolved a complete answer to that question. But I can give you my short-form response: A small group of willful people, mostly money men […]

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How Much Is Western Civ Valued on Campus?

Not far into an important book published recently is a table displaying results for one question on the North American Academic Study Survey, a poll of professors, administrators, and students administered in 1999.  The survey is the basis for The Still Divided Academy by the late-Stanley Rothman, April Kelly-Roessner, and Matthew Roessner, which reviews the results and draws balanced conclusions.  […]

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Bowdoin’s History

The NAS has announced that it is undertaking an intriguing case study examining “the curriculum, student activities, and campus values of Bowdoin College as a case study to learn what a contemporary liberal arts college education consists of,” with the hopes of creating “a template for how such a rigorous study could be undertaken at […]

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Why Don’t Progressives Support U.S. History for Freshmen?

Herb London and KC Johnson have already posted on the disappointing findings of the ACTA project What Will They Learn? But it is worth pondering some of the implications of the report.  One of the more striking of them is the “Slightly less than 20% [of colleges surveyed] require U.S. government or history.”  As KC […]

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Are Military and Diplomatic History Making a Comeback?

Last week, the American Historical Association released a members’ survey regarding how historians classify themselves. In contrast to critics (including me) who have suggested that the profession has aggressively diminished approaches to history deemed “traditional,” Inside Higher Ed reports that “designations of military history are up by 39 percent over the decade, for instance. Diplomatic […]

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Religion on Campus, Then and Now

                           By Jonathan B. Imber Until 1969, on the campus where I teach, all students were required to take two semester s of Bible, which made the Department of Religion a central force in the life of the institution.  When I arrived twelve years later, with no Bible requirement any longer in place, the only remnant […]

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Why Study Western Civilization?

In predictable fashion, Inside Higher Ed has reported on “The Vanishing West,” the National Association of Scholars’ study on the virtual disappearance of Western Civ courses from our colleges, by quoting only critics.  But the criticisms are the same ones I’ve been hearing for the 20 years I’ve been in academia. Princeton Professor and president of the American Historical Association Anthony […]

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The Disappearance of Western Civ

If you happened to attend college back in the day, the term “Western Civilization” was common currency among most undergraduates: it was something you expected to wrestle with, usually during your freshman year.  In one way or another, “Western Civ.” covered the intellectual, cultural, artistic, religious and political heritage of European civilization, erected on the […]

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Golf, Diversity and Bowdoin History

Yesterday’s brief account here on Bowdoin College and the apparent disarray of its history department drew a lot of attention, though we did not link to the full original article. The reason we did not link is that the text from the Claremont Review of Books appeared to be proprietary–sent only to subscribers for their […]

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U.S. History as Taught at Bowdoin (Ugh)

“There are any number of courses that deal with some group aspect of America, but virtually none that deals with America as a whole. For example, there is African-American history from 1619 to 1865 and from 1865 to the present, but there is no comparable sequence on America. Every course is social or cultural history that looks at the world […]

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The GOP Was Wrong–So Was the Historical Association

By now, most people who follow either politics or higher education know the story of William Cronon. The University of Wisconsin professor published a lengthy post critiquing the policies of Governor Scott Walker, and a week later penned a New York Times op-ed raising similar themes. In between the dates of the two essays, the […]

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Edmundson on Students and Derrida on Tradition

University of Virginia English professor Mark Edmundson has a penetrating, but saddening article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week. It’s called “Narcissus Regards a Book”, and it laments a terrible outcome of the academic culture wars of the late-1980s and early-1990s. Edmunson recalls the infamous chant of students at Stanford—in his rendition, “Hey-ho, […]

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The Odd Cold-War Center at NYU

Many universities have set up centers to examine the history of the Cold War. The Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington D. C., for example, created an offshoot called The Cold War International History Project. That institute has over the years hosted many conferences, with panels of scholars representing all points of view. Two years […]

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A Fresh View of Cold-War America

Teaching in the universities about the so-called McCarthy era has become an area most susceptible to politically correct and one-sided views of what the period was all about. One historian who strenuously objects to the accepted left-wing interpretation that prevails in the academy is Jennifer Delton, Chairman of the Department of History at Skidmore College. […]

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The Skewing of American History

A few years ago, the University of Iowa’s History Department conducted a search for a new hire in U.S. foreign relations. After the department denied a preliminary, or screening, interview to Mark Moyar—a highly qualified (B.A. summa cum laude in history from Harvard, Ph.D. In history from Cambridge), but also clearly conservative, historian—it came to […]

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