Letters to the Editor

On History Enrollments

Emil Moussa, May 2017

To the editor:

The AHA and Perspectives constantly cover the fact that there is a decline in history majors and under­graduate history enrollments across the country. Frankly, this has been an issue we’ve all been reading about for many years now.

We all know that there is a decline in interest in the history major by many college students given the push by colleges, school districts, and all levels of government to ensure students are learning 21st-century skills and meeting the needs of the new job market, often through STEM majors. We’ve also been reading more and more about alternate job prospects for PhDs and what other aspects of work they can do outside the collegiate system. However, as a secondary educator and a learning specialist at a local college, I have another concern: the Association is not casting a wide enough net to reach its members who may not hold a PhD but still have a general interest in the Association and the perpetuation of the study of history for the benefits it confers on students of all ages.

More needs to be done to involve more secondary educators who teach global history, geography, US history and government, economics, Participation in Government and International Baccalaureate programs, and, of course, the AP courses, which range from world history to human geography and every­thing in between.

The Association has made a good start, by including profiles of people in professions outside the college system and covering ongoing issues in the AP US History exam. But more needs to be done. To increase membership and awareness about the AHA, and the issues and concerns that all historians have, the Association should extend outreach efforts to include more secondary educators, both within the AHA and through the conversations the AHA has externally. Has the AHA reached out to such associations as the National Council for the Social Studies and its state affiliates to expand membership and gain another perspective on history education?

Everyone, consider the professional development secondary educators could gain by collaborating with professors and communicating with each other to minimize the gap between the senior year of high school and the freshman year of college and the skills needed to succeed in a college/university atmosphere. Think of the new teaching methods secondary educators could share with college professors to help enhance teaching methods and methodology to make class more interactive, as well as to share information about differentiated technology, technology use in the classroom, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the methodology of critical thinking and metacognition to help our students excel at a higher level.

The AHA is taking the appropriate steps to be more inclusive of the larger audience of historians and educators, but more should be done!

Emil Moussa
Byram Hills High School/Manhattanville College

Elizabeth Lehfeldt (vice president, AHA Teaching Division) responds:

The AHA values input from members about how it can better support the teaching of history from K–12 through doctoral education. This work is central to our mission and has expanded considerably over the past decade. The AHA has worked closely with the National Council for the Social Studies, including work on both the construction of the C3 framework and the advisory board of National History Day. We have partnered recently with the College Board to sponsor symposia about the three AP history exams. Educators have the option of adding a subscription to The History Teacher to their AHA membership, and we are actively working to provide resources for educators from all levels at our annual meeting and on our website. This year’s annual meeting included a K–12 workshop co-sponsored by the College Board and eight sessions specifically directed at K–12 educators. The Association also regularly advocates on behalf of K–12 educators. Most recently, the Association protested a Mexican American studies textbook submitted to the Texas State Board of Education to meet the state’s new Mexican American studies standard in high schools. The text contained many inaccuracies and was not based on rigorous historical research. We successfully lobbied to have it removed from consideration.

We welcome suggestions from members on how to continue to expand this work.


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