Phi Beta Cons

Howe Now

From my NRO interview with Daniel Walker Howe, a UCLA history prof and the author of a new volume in the Oxford History of the United States series:

MILLER: Do today’s students learn enough history in high school? Do they know enough history when they graduate from college?
HOWE: Schools have been downgrading history for a long time. First it was subordinated to “social studies.” More recently, it has suffered from the priority accorded reading and math, now that they are the only two subjects tested for the purposes of evaluating the schools. In reality, of course, the study of history could do a great deal to improve reading comprehension. Colleges could do a better job imparting a general knowledge of history to undergraduates. At research universities, faculty members are often reluctant to teach the survey courses that nurture an informed citizenry; instead, they want to teach their latest research article. Compounding the problem is the movement to substitute courses in “world civilization” for the customary “western civilization.” Unfortunately, the faculty members are seldom qualfied to teach such a diverse curriculum, and the students end up with an undigested hodge-podge. Until courses in world civilization can be better organized, I think undergraduates are better served by taking western civ. If world civ is to be taught, then it should take two years to cover it, since one year is barely enough for what needs to be taught about western civ.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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