Publication Date

March 1, 1992

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

January and February in AHA headquarters are devoted to carrying out the decisions made by the Council at its December sessions (see February Perspectives, p. 3) and to the unceasing round of meetings of other organizations and enterprises in which the Association takes part.

We regularly report to members about the advocacy efforts of the AHA, which participates directly in three major lobbying enterprises on behalf of history and allied disciplines. The most important of these is, of course, our own NCC, the National Coordinating Committee. Page Miller, its director, is carried as a member of the AHA staff and receives direct support for her office, though her funding is kept separate from the AHA, since over 80 percent of its cash revenue is contributed by other historical and scholarly organizations. Her regular reports on lobbying for history-related causes are carried in “NCC News,” a monthly feature of Perspectives.

The next largest AHA contribution is made to the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), the principal advocacy arm for the National Endowment for the Humanities and a strong supporter of the Library of Congress. NEH is the largest funding source for history and other humanities projects, while the LC is a most important source collection for historians. The AHA has provided a president for NHA in the recent past and is represented on its policy board. Most recently we encouraged NHA to sign on to an amicus brief in a federal case involving interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Rust v. Sullivan, which held that federal funding of an undertaking conveyed certain powers to circumscribe the freedom of speech of the undertaking’s employees. Since the implications of broad construction of this judicially endorsed power, apparently now being sought by the Justice Department, could be horrendous for scholars, teachers, and researchers, we were pleased that the NHA’s conference call of its policy committee reached near unanimity in support for weighing into the fray. Further ramifications of this case will be a subject of the meeting of the NHA board on February 10.

Also on behalf of the NHA, the AHA’s executive director appeared on January 29 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative as a witness supporting the Library of Congress’s fiscal year 1993 funding proposal. This was the third time in the last seven years that we have provided a principal public witness for the Library.

The third advocacy group that the AHA supports is the Consortium of Social Science Associations, which, like the other two lobbying organizations, began in the first year of the Reagan administration. COSSA is the primary lobby for the National Science Foundation and is thus somewhat less important for most of our members, five-sixths of whom identify themselves as humanists rather than social scientists. COSSA’s board met on January 28 to plan organizational strategies for the legislative year now under way. During the last few months, COSSA’s efforts helped to achieve a successful conclusion to a decade-long effort to obtain better access for social scientists to the National Science Foundation by the creation of a new NSF directorate for the social and behavioral sciences. Though historians of science had been content with being lumped with the “hard sciences,” other social scientists had too often felt like stepchildren.

Other meetings that engaged headquarters staff during the first weeks of 1992 included a National History Day board meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, at which the decision was made to relocate the program’s headquarters to the Washington, DC area and to move forward with a long-range plan to expand NHD’s work on behalf of K–12 history education. The board also initiated the search process for a new executive director to succeed Lois Scharf, who has resigned after nearly a decade and a half of invaluable service in order to devote more time to her research and teaching. Dr. Scharf has overseen the phenomenal growth of National History Day from a small Ohio competition involving one hundred students to a series of local, state, and national competitions involving over 400,000 students and 50,000 teachers nationwide. The profession owes Dr. Scharf an enormous debt of gratitude for her important efforts to engage young people in the study of history.

K–12 history education was also the focus of another meeting in which headquarters staff participated—the Steering Committee meeting for the U.S. History Framework Project for the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a congressionally mandated, discipline-based assessment conducted since 1969 and designed to provide comparative data on student knowledge over time. The November 1991 issue of Perspectives provided details on the Association’s involvement, which will continue through the spring. Meanwhile, the AHA has also agreed to participate, along with four other historical organizations, in the National History Standards Project undertaken by the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA. Funded by NEH and the U.S. Department of Education, this project will also develop achievement or assessment standards, but for world history as well as for U.S. history.

Finally, headquarters staff participated along with representatives from sixteen other disciplinary and professional organizations in a mid-January conference focused on possible reform or reconceptualization of the faculty rewards structure at colleges and universities. Held at the Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread conference center in Racine, Wisconsin, the meeting explored ways that scholarly work might be broadened or redefined to be more inclusive and better reflect the variety of work in our discipline today. The Association is also involved in a similar project sponsored by Syracuse University that focuses more specifically on how to foster greater recognition for teaching within the academic rewards system.