Colleges Twist U.S. History

National Association of Scholars, January 10, 2013

U.S. history courses at American colleges and universities downplay the nation’s economic, military, and political history and dramatically overemphasize the role of race. So finds a new study by the Texas Association of Scholars (TAS) and Center for the Study of the Curriculum at the National Association of Scholars (NAS).

The study focused on the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M as representative institutions because Texas law requires all students at public universities to take a year of American history and for universities to post course syllabi and faculty credentials online. The researchers found that many important topics received scant attention while more than half the faculty members focused on race, class, and gender (RCG) in their courses.  Among the topics that were often crowded out were America’s diplomatic, philosophical, religious, and scientific history.

The report, Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?, finds:

  • High emphasis on race, class, and gender in reading assignments. 78 percent of UT faculty members were high assigners of RCG readings;
  • 50 percent of A&M faculty members were high assigners of RCG readings.
  • An absence of significant primary source documents and key concepts
  • Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and the Gettysburg Address, for instance, were rarely assigned, and numerous political documents, such as the Mayflower Compact and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, were not assigned in any American history courses.
  • High level of race, class, and gender research interests among faculty members teaching these courses. 78 percent of UT faculty members had special research interests in RCG;
  • 64 percent of A&M faculty members had special research interests in RCG.

“The failure of these major universities to present a broader picture of the American story shortchanges students,” said Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars. “It also puts at risk the nation’s civic literacy.”

“The patterns we uncovered at UT and A&M reflect national trends in the discipline. To turn this around history departments must review their curricula, keep broad courses broad, hire less-narrowly-specialized faculty members, and diversify graduate programs.”

Download a PDF of the Study

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