A Student of History

May 12, 2006

Why do history courses never reach close to the present?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 4:27 pm

This is a question taken up by Glen Jeansonne in the AHA Perspectives, here.  His introduction goes like this:

It is Karl Marx's specter "haunting Europe." It is Betty Friedan's "problem with no name." It is the question history students from junior high through graduate school asks: "Why do my history courses never reach very close to the present?"

This is followed by an interesting statement:

It is time to face the question and confess: historians change less rapidly than history.  The reason we do not come near the present is because most courses are backloaded—the courses contain more years and events in the second half than in the first half. Most baby boom professors such as me simply don't try to reach the present, trailing off in the 1970s or 1980s. When we do cover these periods we do a better job at covering the politics than the popular culture because it is easier to name the great books of the 1920s and 1930s than to judge and rank more recent cultural artifacts such as rap music. Yet these are the kinds of things many of our students are interested in.

Good article from a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  He is the author of Messiah of the Masses: Huey P. Long and the Great Depression. New York: Longman's, 1993.

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3 Comments »

  1. Hey John, — What a coincidence as I just posted on this very issue. — Kevin

    Comment by Kevin — May 12, 2006 @ 6:16 pm | Reply

  2. Hi–the article is a good one, though some may disagree with the reasons. What is the link to your post on same subject, so others can see that one too?
    JM

    Comment by John Maass — May 12, 2006 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

  3. Here is the link: http://civilwarmemory.typepad.com/civil_war_memory/2006/05/managing_americ.html

    Kevin

    Comment by Kevin — May 13, 2006 @ 11:30 am | Reply


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