Effective history teaching: passion and deep knowledge (and stay classy!)

Eric Foner, a distinguished historian of the Reconstruction-era of the United States, makes a terrific point in an interview with David Cutler at The Atlantic.  (My apologies if the title of the article is his takeaway point:  “‘You Have to Know History to Actually Teach It.'” ) To wit, Foner says:

I tell my students nowadays who are in graduate school and going on to become teachers—the number one thing is to have a real passion for your subject and to be able to convey that to your students. Obviously the content is important, but that’s not as unusual as being able to really convey why you think history is important. I think that’s what inspires students.

In a follow-up question, Foner explains this in terms of the deficits in historical education he sees at the high school level:

The first thing I would say is that we have to get away from the idea that any old person can teach history. A lot of the history teachers in this country are actually athletic coaches. I mention this in class, and students always say, “Oh yeah, Coach Smith, he taught my history course.” Why? Well, Coach Smith is the football coach, and in the spring he’s not doing much, and they say, “Well, put him in the history course, he can do that.”

They wouldn’t put him in a French course, or a physics course. The number-one thing is, you have to know history to actually teach it. That seems like an obvious point, but sometimes it’s ignored in schools. Even more than that, I think it’s important that people who are teaching history do have training in history. A lot of times people have education degrees, which have not actually provided them with a lot of training in the subject. Continue reading

Western Lands, Western Voices: The American West Center at Fifty

AWC50thFrom the Call for Papers I received from the American West Center‘s Director Greg Smoak:

“Western Lands, Western Voices,” a three- day interdisciplinary symposium exploring the past, present, and future of public engagement in the Humanities and Social Sciences will be held in Salt Lake City, September 19-21, 2014. The symposium marks the fiftieth anniversary of the University of Utah’s American West Center, the oldest regional studies center of its kind in the West. Our goal is to bring together college/university and community based practitioners for a lively discussion of the place and power of publicly engaged/applied scholarship in the American West.

Subjects:  We seek submissions from college and university based scholars, community based organizations and institutions, state and local historical and cultural entities, and indigenous Nations. The symposium will engage diverse fields including history, anthropology, political science, ethnic studies, literature, cultural studies, and the arts. We strongly encourage participants and projects that span disciplinary divides.  Submissions from graduate students, early career scholars, and community based scholars are particularly encouraged, as are those that address innovative ways of reaching public audiences. Continue reading

What I saw at the AHA 2014: Who are the ladies?

elvgrenartistHowdy, friends!  I spent last weekend at the American Historical Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.  Here’s what I saw & did, at least the not-unbloglich parts.

  • Tenured Radical and I had coffee on Friday and then dinner on Saturday and spent the whole time figuring out how to silence and oppress more junior scholars, in-between her multiple appearances on the program and her incessant blogging and tweeting about the conference.  Honestly, those of you who want to take her on had better stock up on your Power Bars and Emergen-C, because her energy and enthusiasm for her work online and as a public intellectual are utterly overwhelming.  I’m ten years younger than she is, and I’m already at least a week behind her!  For those of you who are interested, see her three blog reports:  AHA Day 1:  Digital History Workshopalooza, AHA Day 2:  Fun With the Humanities, AHA Day 3:  Remember the Women, and her always lively Twitter feed.  (Excuse me–I have to go have a lie down after just linking to all of that activity.)
  • Clever readers will hear echoes of Abigail Adams’s counsel to John Adams in Tenured Radical’s “Remember the Women” blog post.  I also keep thinking of that scene from Lena Dunham’s Girls in which the character she plays, Hannah, asks the other women, “Who are the ladies?”  (Shosh has been quoting a heterosexual dating advice book aimed at “the ladies,” and Hannah’s question implies that “ladies” is a stupid, made-up, narrow way to talk to real women, who come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities, etc., and both Hannah and Jessa resent being lumped into the notional category of “ladies”–just click the embedded video below.)  That was the essence of Tenured Radical’s question for the women on the “Generations of History” panel she writes about in her AHA Day 3 post when she asked what the panel would have looked like if it had included a lesbian, for example, or even some women for whom marriage and children were never a part of their life plan.
  • Continue reading

What’s wrong with this vision of American history?

John Judis lists his top ten American history books.  “They’re my favorites; they’re not the best books, because I haven’t read comprehensively, especially in certain periods. It’s much heavier on the history of religion than on social history, and on the Progressive Era than on, say, the Civil War.” Everyone is entitled to her favorite writers and periods of history.  Fair enough.

See if you can guess why Historiann has a problem with this list (aside from the fact that the latest publication date on his list is 1988!):

  1. Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, (1956).
  2. William McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings and Reform, (1978).
  3. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, (1969).
  4. Michael Paul Rogin, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian, (1988).
  5. Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life, (1909). Continue reading