“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana

Via WSJ.

A new report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a nonprofit group that advocates for accountability at schools, found that just 23 of the institutions among the 76 deemed to be the “best” by U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 rankings require history majors to take at least one U.S. history course.

Many elite schools, including Rice University and Johns Hopkins University, may require students to take courses about events from before 1750, or on East Asian and sub-Saharan African politics, without also demanding that they study the creation of the U.S. Constitution or the civil-rights movement.

The association said in its report that the absence of mandates that history majors take U.S. history classes with chronological and thematic breadth is “a truly breathtaking abandonment of intellectual standards and professional judgment.”

….Penn history students who pursue an American history concentration within the major can take classes including “Baseball in U.S. History,” while those at the University of Texas at Austin can partially fulfill their American history requirement by signing up for “Jews in American Entertainment.”….


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  1. Chuck says:

    My hunch is that, for whatever reason, the number of professors qualified to teach American History is not that high. Hence, universities modify the curriculum to match the interests of the available faculty, or totally drop out the requirement.

    • Charles_PA says:

      If I remember correctly, the Texas state schools require that all students take both American and Texas state history to graduate.

      The real problem is, however, a bit more complex than simply not having the professors to teach the courses. Many state universities have government-mandated credit hour limits for a B.S. or B.A. degree, and a wide variety of mandatory diversity courses in the core curriculum. Those diversity courses cut into the majors courses in a significant way. The History faculty may assume, incorrectly, that the students learned American history in high school. The students, on the other hand, may find that taking more than 128 hours results in them being considered out-of-state students with the accompanying cost increases so they don’t want to take any additional courses. Private schools like Rice don’t have this problem, but the cost of extra courses for them is even higher than the state universities.

      Let me give you an example of how the core curriculum has affected the courses that physics students take. Physics majors once took a fair number of both physics and math courses (usually 12 physics and 8 mathematics), but now they take fewer math and physics courses since they must take courses like “Social Problems” and “Introduction to Ethnic Studies” to meet the core curriculum requirements. Those diversity courses take the place of courses like “Experiment Design” or “Fourier and Eigenfunction Methods”.

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