James Grossman and Elaine Carey: An Undisciplined Report on the Teaching of History

tags: National Association of Scholars, Chronicle of Higher Ed., American Historical Association, James Grossman, Elaine Carey



James Grossman is executive director of the American Historical Association. Elaine Carey is vice president for the Teaching Division of the association and chair of the history department at St. John's University, in New York.

Historians welcome informed debate. It is precisely what attracted many of us to the discipline in the first place. Thus our initial reaction to a recent report by the National Association of Scholars, "Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?," was to engage the ideas, explore the research model, and open a conversation about different ways of understanding history. This report, however, does not contribute to informed debate.

"Recasting History" presents itself as a detailed study of lower-level history courses at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University­—and by extension at colleges and universities across the nation. Its critique is straightforward: "All too often the course readings gave strong emphasis to race, class, or gender (RCG) social history, an emphasis so strong that it diminished the attention given to other subjects in American history (such as military, diplomatic, religious, intellectual history). The result is that the institutions frequently offered students a less-than-comprehensive picture of U.S. history." The report condemns "narrow, specialized, and ideologically partisan approaches, largely driven by faculty research agendas."

Any historian who writes or teaches about the dynamics of power in a context that includes black people is understood by this report to be interested exclusively in "race," American slavery being merely a "racial" topic with little of consequence for political, intellectual, religious, diplomatic, or military history....



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