Publication Date

September 1, 2013

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should follow our guidelines. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters’ contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.

On “History for Non-majors”

To the Editor:

The coverage of the Tuning project in your April issue is informative, thought-provoking, and welcome. I am, however, a little surprised that there isn’t more attention paid to the limitations of the inquiry, which-apparently as defined by the project itself-seems to focus almost exclusively on instruction for history majors. The undergraduate history major is, of course, vital in many ways, not the least of which is the social value of having future business leaders, lawyers, public officials, and citizens across a range of other occupations and activities, continue to be well-trained in the critical analysis and communication skills that are integral to a bachelor’s degree in history. But what about the 98 percent of college undergraduates who do not major in history? Surely their knowledge of and experience with history is also important?

Independent Scholar, Zurich, Switzerland

The AHA Responds:

Thank you for your thoughtful letter and for raising this important issue. The AHA's Tuning project is specifically designed and funded to support work on the history major; subsequently our work has focused on articulating and clarifying the goals and outcomes of the major at participating institutions.The grant also includes participants from two-year institutions, however, where the norm is not to have a history major, but to offer an interdisciplinary degree, concentration, or a set of courses that students can take with them if they transfer to a four-year institution.Nonetheless, the important relationship you identified between history in the general education curriculum and the history major has been a central topic of discussion in the AHA’s Tuning project. Indeed, the design of the Tuning project was founded in part on the AHA’s long engagement with this relationship, reflected in the AHA publications “The History Major and Undergraduate Liberal Education” (2008) and “Liberal Learning and the History Major” (2007). A disciplinary unit that is trying to clarify the goals of the major must also make clear the major’s relationship to the other parts of the curriculum. The 60-plus faculty members who have been involved in the AHA’s Tuning efforts so far have demonstrated a keen awareness that their general education students, and the service teaching they do, are essential to the success of history education as an enterprise. 
There were multiple sessions on the role of general education at the February meeting of the Tuners, and a session on this subject is planned for the Thursday morning Undergraduate Teaching Workshop at the 2014 annual meeting in Washington, DC.

-Julia Brookins, 
Special Projects Coordinator,
American Historical Association

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