Blogs > Cliopatria > Whither the Introductory Survey: World History?

May 17, 2004 9:29 am

Whither the Introductory Survey: World History?

Naomi Chana at Baraita has taken a break from her stacks of grading to question her role in her department's introductory survey sections. It's a devastating question, as she finds out, because it goes to the heart of who we are as scholars and as educators and employers. Yes, it's the adjunct question again, so ably raised by the now-quiet Invisible Adjunct.

My department is trying to do something of which I am quite proud. Rather than hire adjuncts to relieve the ever-increasing World History survey burden (our enrollments keep going up, and we've never had trouble filling sections, but we live on an island with a very small pool of underemployed historians), we are trying to hire a full-time, tenure-track World Historian. We're currently in administrative limbo, as the powers-that-be decide whether they can afford to hire someone who effectively will pay their own salary by teaching three sections of fifty students (the largest classes offered at UHH, almost, and we offer at least five sections a semester) every semester. [Feel free to offer your own thoughts on shortsighted administrators in comments section].

Sure, it's a little odd to hire an historian and not really care what their dissertation topic is, or ask what kind of upper-division courses they'd like to teach. And it's not the most inviting job on the books, either: survey after survey after survey, and every assignment you give out comes back to you 150 times. But it's a full-time, tenure-track position. There is a growing pedagogy and theory of World History that is starting to make itself felt in textbooks and in some classrooms. This position will allow someone from one of the few centers of World History to actually put some of that theory into practice in concrete and studied ways.

The great thing about this is that it will actually give our World History program a center, and the potential to grow pedagogically and intellectually beyond"that course we have to teach." I'm a great fan of introductory surveys, and of the World History survey in particular: foundational knowledge and done on the scale necessary to begin to comprehend the way the world really works. It won't be a sideline, something done by the fungible and nearly invisible adjuncts, but rather a core mission of the department. This is something that needs to be done.

Update: Search Cancelled Due To Lack of Funds... and Leadership

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More Comments:

Brian Ulrich - 4/27/2004

Now see, I would actually love this job. One of my biggest problems is settling down into a set of specific interests, and it's no accident that I made Comparative Global my minor field. I'm also really interested in pedagogy, and have no problems teach world history intros - in fact, I fully expect to do so if I get a job at some smaller school. And it's in Hawai'i. Let me know if it's still open in a few years =)

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