No American history at Cal universities?

Hilarious! “Seven or eight out of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught!,” says Rick Santorum. I wonder what all of those friends of mine are doing out there, if they’re not teaching American history?

How about all of you readers and commenters at Davis, Merced, Irvine, San Diego, and Berkeley? Care to weigh in on this one? (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

I am not a Rachel Maddow fan–I think her style is often childish and her “news” program is really just light entertainment for people who already agree with her point of view. (Then again, I suppose that’s a reasonable description of most of what I see of cable TV news.) However, this analysis of the Rick Santorum campaign seems shrewd to me. She says that “Rick Santorum is hard to report on. . . . but the way that he campaigns frankly repels top-tier style [media] coverage, as in coverage that takes him seriously.”

Which is what should happen when you just make $hit up in order to inflame your vanishing voter base.

24 thoughts on “No American history at Cal universities?

  1. Take it from this Pennsylvanian, Santorum is not just difficult to report on, he’s difficult to even hear correctly. I’m sure what our old homeboy meant to have said was an “American *VICtory* course,” and–thinking about it that way–I’ve noticed that we don’t have one of those either here at Brezh State. So I’m working on a draft syllabus. Suggestions for readings welcomed.


  2. Maddow assumes that he meant the UC system, not the Cal State system, because of the “seven or eight” comment. (None of it makes sense to me–I suppose he could have meant anything, because what he’s saying is patently untrue no matter how many unis he thinks are in the “California system.”)

    Which campuses, I wonder, did he believe actually taught American history? It’s like the old Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop commercial: “The world. . . may never know.”


  3. Well, of course they don’t under his definition because those are profs of some leftist studies and even if they were teaching a course about American history it wouldn’t be American history because they’re by definition anti-American!



  4. How are people supposed to teach American History out there if it’s not even “available to be taught?” Is this guy saying that it didn’t even happen in the first place? Is there some phenomenological trick up his sleeve–that stuff did actually happen, but that it dissipated into the ether too quickly to be captured and prepared for pedagogy? It’s not “available to be taught” because the California legislature sold it to another customer, like a cruise line that wants to offer neat stuff on the Gold Rush as an elective evening alternate to cardboard “horse” races? I see a lot of room for “play” here.


  5. How does he square this with his earlier attack on Obama’s “snobbery” for wanting everyone to go to college? If it’s bad for g-d-fearing Americans to attend college in the first place, does it matter what is or is not taught there? I know, trying to be logical will get me nowhere. Surely even most of his “base” can’t be taking this too seriously; he is sounding the right cultural notes, never mind the details.


  6. I think Santorum would argue that the absence of American history from nearly all public California universities is precisely why cultural conservatives shouldn’t go to college. But yeah: logic will get you nowhere with “Petrus.” The Jesuits would never have admitted this guy, that’s for sure.

    (I want a presidential candidate who will choose “Biggus Dickus” as his Secret Service handle.)


  7. Well, I have it on good evidence that the Sacramento CBS affiliate went to the UCD History Department to interview faculty after Rachel Maddow name-checked several courses and faculty in the department during last night’s show; KHTK also filmed in a course on the history of Chicanos in the United States. Nearly all of the professors mentioned were excited, except one professor whose name appeared on screen but Maddow didn’t read aloud. The most exciting thing to happen in Davis….*ever*.


  8. Well, down here in Merced, we teach US history. I assumed, as Janice did, that the leftie commie pinko historians we have don’t teach about how the founding fathers established a Christian, abortion- and gay marriage-hating capitalist country. And so what they teach isn’t *American* history, but Muslim pro-Kenya history. I mean, really, who would think that Chcano history was American?


  9. Susan may be onto something. Perhaps it didn’t count as “American History” unless that (or “History of the United States”) was the title of the course? So in this way, courses like “The Civil Rights Movement” (UC Santa Cruz) or “Comparative Race and Ethnicity in the United States” (UC Merced) or “Social History of American Women and the Family” (UC Davis) or “From New Era to New Deal” (UC San Diego) don’t count.

    Of course, all those schools’ course catalogs also list something that’s pretty clearly a U.S. History survey. So my secondary conclusion is: He’s just making it up.


  10. Not only that, it’s a state requirement to take a certain number of credits in US history and institutions.

    I remember b*ing about it as I thought it was or would be or was intended as patriotic indoctrination but as my smarter friend pointed out, people need that material at the college level if they are to understand seriously what has happened and is happening, the contexts in which we function.

    Took the course and it was serious and great, made you want to know more.


  11. Scratch that. Here’s a way that it might be true:

    “Seven or eight out of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course…”

    If he’s treating all three of the California University systems — UC, Cal State, and the massive community college system — as a single higher ed system, that’s over 200 campuses, most of them community colleges, and a handful of them specialty schools (Los Angeles Trade Tech; California Maritime Academy, etc). I suppose that among all that, you might find seven or eight that don’t teach a U.S. History survey.

    Now, I should get to bed. Because as a professor, I’ve got a busy day of destroying the foundations of our great nation tomorrow, and I need to be well rested.


  12. My favorite part was the “it’s not even available to be taught!!!” bit. What the frickety-frack does that even mean? Historians in California are busy disappearing American history? We’re not making any more American history–production has stopped, or it’s been moved offshore, like so much other manufacturing?


    Here’s the completely corny truth you’ll never hear from the right: American historians teach and write American history because deep down, we’re most of us Whig historians who believe in ideals like “all men are created equal” and “we the people” and all of that patriotic claptrap. Most of us believe too that the U.S. can and must do better in making good on its ideals–but the fact is that we’re foremost among the Love America (as opposed to the Hate America) Crowd.

    But of course, in order to appreciate that right wing pols would need to read our books and attend our classes, and they’re just not into working all that hard. The anti-intellectual strain in American politics is alive and well, and in no danger of vanishing with paranoid fantasists and liars like Santorum running for president.


  13. As I FWIW, I should clarify that I meant most “exciting” thing to happen in Davis in a positive sense. As a friend reminded me, the pepper-spray cop made *slightly* more news…but that was “exciting” in an “alarming and terrifying” kind of way. This was more of a “hey, they’re filming outside our seminar room!” way. Nonetheless, even with the local news we can’t get no respect, as evidence by their trumpeting of “Pulitzer Prize Winner Allen Taylor” as one of UCD’s finest. Ah, fact checking on local news; even they can’t find the website.


  14. Per Historiann’s point @5:22 Richard S. Dunn said it best, in the preface to a collection of essays by a UC system professor: “Most historians are whigs. Gary Nash is NOT a whig.” Full stop. No more needed to be said.


  15. I’ve got a busy day of destroying the foundations of our great nation tomorrow

    Ha ha. My very own teaching profile has recently come under the scrutiny of a certain segment of the extremo-blogo-sphere. Among the topics I have no business teaching is a seminar on science communication. The jokes, they write themselves.


  16. “My favorite part was the “it’s not even available to be taught!!!” bit. What the frickety-frack does that even mean?”

    At first I thought, “Oh, you know, it’s like those obscure Topics in Specific Research Area that are only taught in odd-numbered spring semesters or when Dr. So-and-So is back from doing fieldwork every six years- they’re in the catalog, but they aren’t available every semester, and Santorum must be saying that not only are these classes not taught, but they aren’t even listed in the catalog!”

    Then I thought, “Oh come on, like Rick Santorum actually consulted a college’s catalog.”

    So I have no idea either.


  17. Although I was kidding around with the John Kyl reference, the fact is that the GOP has gone so far off the rails, that even in its supposed mainstream, there is simply no longer any expectation by its constituents that its leaders are even attempting to emit utterances that have a truth value, let alone that they are actually true.


  18. I was mentioning this post yesterday to a colleague who has a Ph.D from UC-Berkeley–this cruel deprivation for the youth of the Golden State of being available to be taught American history. Her reaction was that if this is true it’s also a great opportunity for historians to become “Forty Niners,” rushing out there to rectify the imbalance. If this pans out, we could maybe even call the program “Erasing the Elephant.” I just have one plea: anyone who can prove that they helped to dismiss a junior senator from PA from his last degree program, by which I mean public office, should get to draft first as those luscious endowed chairs fall under the hammer.


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