Few Top Colleges Require History Majors to Study American History

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Less than one-third of the top colleges and universities in the United States require history majors to take even a single course in American history.

In a new report, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) finds that only 23 undergraduate history programs at 76 of the colleges ranked highest by U.S. News & World Report require even a single American history course to fulfill the major.

ACTA asserts:

Many of the same institutions that do not require history majors to take a course on United States history do specify that they must complete coursework on areas outside the United States. And many allow some very strange, highly specialized topics to substitute for a course on the United States. History majors at Williams College could choose “Soccer and History in Latin America: Making the Beautiful Game.” At Swarthmore, one choice could be “Modern Addiction: Cigarette Smoking in the 20th Century.” At Bowdoin, it might be “Lawn Boy Meets Valley Girl.”

Of the 23 schools that do require a U.S. History class to fulfill the history major, 11 allow other classes such as “Hip-Hop, Politics, and Youth Culture in America” (University of Connecticut) or “Mad Men and Mad Women” (Middlebury College) to fulfill the requirement, reports ACTA.

“Historical illiteracy is the inevitable consequence of lax college requirements, and that ignorance leads to civic disempowerment,” Michael Poliakoff, ACTA’s president-elect, states in a press release. “A democratic republic cannot thrive without well-informed citizens and leaders. Elite colleges and universities in particular let the nation down when the examples they set devalue the study of United States history.”

The report comes as liberal elites who pushed through the Common Core standards in most states have also “reworked” the Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum to further a progressive view of America’s past that will affect all U.S. history taught in the country.

“We are committed to the idea that all histories are important and valuable in the cultivation of a robust civic consciousness,” Bill North, chairman of the history department at Carleton College, told The Wall Street Journal, explaining why Carleton does not require history majors to take U.S. history courses.

However, Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and expert on the revised Advanced Placement U.S. History framework, tells Breitbart News, “The notion that all histories are equally able to create the ‘robust civic consciousness’ that American students require is a pathetic joke.”

“That the chairman of Carleton’s history department could make such a ridiculous statement shows the extent to which our campuses have been paralyzed by mindless relativism,” he adds. “The Founders are turning over in their graves.”

A social anthropologist by training, Kurtz says he is “the last person to disparage the study of non-Western cultures.” He continues:

But it’s ridiculous to deny the imperative for American students to learn, first and foremost, the history of our own country and its governing principles. American democracy can’t function unless our students have that knowledge. In fact, you can’t properly understand how other societies work without first understanding your own. And it’s silly to pretend that we don’t already have a national and cultural identity that has to be well understood and appreciated before we can even properly take in and evaluate the alternatives.

Kurtz says the only problem with ACTA’s survey is that “the situation is even worse than it seems,” and adds:

Some students may take the AP U.S. history test in high school, but the College Board has turned that course into an exercise in global consciousness that ignores America’s distinctive character and highlights conflict by race, ethnicity, class, and gender. The core principle and process of immigrant assimilation is ignored in APUSH as well. The College Board’s supposed fix didn’t change any of that. And even if students were forced to take American history courses in college, many of them would likewise be focused on global consciousness, intergroup conflict, or ultra-narrow topics. The only way to fix all this is to go back to the fundamentals, at both the high school and college levels. That will take a new educational testing company for the high schools, and a movement to return to “general education” in our colleges.

Jane Robbins, senior fellow at American Principles Project, sees the ACTA survey as yet another indicator that American students will be left disconnected from their country’s exceptional origins.

“Among the many troubling aspects of this survey is that even for college history majors, the College Board’s AP US History course may be the most substantial study of US history they ever engage in,” she tells Breitbart News, concluding:

It will be the unusual teenager who’s insightful and mature enough to challenge the leftist slant of that course. (The slant has been dialed back in the course framework but is still there in the textbooks and the teacher training.) It’s disturbing that the College Board is essentially taking over the history curricula in this country.


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