Perspectives on History

How Do Undergraduates see the Historical Profession?

  • 1.  How Do Undergraduates see the Historical Profession?

    Posted 09-24-2013 11:23:00 AM
    University of Richmond president and professor Ed Ayers brought Perspectives into the classroom as an assignment for his undergraduate history seminar, with interesting results.  He wrote about them in the September issue, which you can read here.  We've already gotten one letter from an undergrad, praising his willingness to see things from their point of view.  Were his findings surprising? useful? How does it change the way you design your classes?

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    Jennifer Reut
    American Historical Assoc.
    Washington DC
    jreut@historians.org

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  • 2.  RE:How Do Undergraduates see the Historical Profession?

    Posted 01-05-2014 04:13:00 PM
    As an undergraduate History major at The College of New Jersey, I can attest to the fact that much of what Ayers observed in his seminar is similar to what I have observed in some of my introductory history classes. To share a brief anecdote, I can remember heated discussions in my "Craft of History Class", an introductory methods class that is first in the sequence, over how history should be taught and what it means (we were reading History on Trial). Many of the students who were not entirely committed to becoming history majors shared a view which more or less defined history as being a series of facts and jingoism. These students were no doubt influenced by the increasingly fact-based history curriculum of many high schools. Other, who seemed to be more committed to the discipline, noted that history is focused on rigorous and seemingly never ending analysis, as well as sheer curiosity. I tend to share this latter view.

    In general, I've noticed that many of my friends who are not history majors don't really understand what it is that historians do. They are constantly confused by the books that I always seem to be reading and wonder why we don't have exams in our classes. I suppose this confusion may be partially the result of a divide between the humanities and the sciences. Nonetheless, many of my undergraduate friends still view history as a class that they were required to take in high school. For this reason, I make every effort to show them otherwise. 

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    Steven Rodriguez
    Coll. of New Jersey
    Oakland NJ
    rodris10@tcnj.edu
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