NCHE Hosts Conference on Teaching the Presidency

AHA Staff, January 2002

The National Council for History Education held a two-day conference October 19–20, 2001, on the theme, "Teaching the Presidency in History." More than 400 teachers (Kindergarten through college) of history from different parts of the country participated in the conference and hears distinguished historians such as Gordon S. Wood of Brown University, Pulitzer Prize winning author Joseph Ellis, and Princeton University's James McPherson. Wood discussed George Washington's impact on the presidency and Ellis spoke about the tensions in Thomas Jefferson's presidency. In a talk entitled "Lincoln's Legacy for Our Time," McPherson discussed the reasons for Lincoln's enduring relevance to the present. One interesting session on the American president on the world stage had eminent historians Robert Dallek, John Lukacs, and Marshall Goldman discussing the complex interactions between FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. The session got off to an amusing start with the three speakers being presented with representative artifacts—a cigarette holder for FDR, a cigar for Churchill, and a pipe for Stalin. But this light-hearted note did not deter the three historians from engaging in heated but informative debate. The AHA participated in the conference with presentations by Arnita Jones, executive director, and Philip Katz, director of research for the Committee on Graduate Education. In a session with the theme "Teaching History, Making Historians: An Open Forum on Graduate Education," and chaired by William Weber, vice president of the AHA's Teaching Division, Jones and Katz explained the initiatives the AHA has been taking to ascertain the state of graduate education across the country. The presentations were followed by a lively question-and-answer session, with many members of the audience sharing their own experiences as administrators of school districts or as historians who had prepared for careers in teaching at the secondary-school level. Weber pointed out that the growing collaboration between history departments, education departments, and schools augured well.