How to teach history

Editor’s note: On Jan.11, the National Association of Scholars published a report titled “Recasting History.” The 62-page report concludes that both UT and A&M’s introductory U.S.  history course offerings are overly focused on themes of race, class and gender.  The report reviewed syllabi and research interests of UT and A&M history professors who taught in fall 2010 introductory U.S. history courses fulfilling a Texas Legislature-mandated requirement in fall 2010. Below, find several responses to the report.

“I hope the history departments [at both UT and A&M] will read the report seriously and come to some decision that they really do need to broaden the history offerings for the freshmen and sophomores taking these courses.”
Peter Wood,
President of the National Association of Scholars and co-author of “Recasting History”

“The study displays a laziness in research and conceptualization I don’t accept in my students. The authors failed to visit classrooms or speak to instructors to find out how the assigned readings are used. I often assign readings I disagree with, because they can provoke the most thoughtful reactions in students. And the study insults students by assuming they can’t think for themselves and accept or reject what they hear and read in the class. My students are more independent-minded than that.”
H.W. Brands,
One of 18 UT history professors whose assignments were the subject of the NAS report

“[There exists] a huge difference between the way A&M and UT implement the law [requiring public college students in Texas to take two semesters of American history]. This is a unique approach used by UT outside of the mainstream in terms of how the law is implemented in the state.”
Richard Fonte,
Co-author of the NAS study

“Indeed, I am aware that NAS has looked at my [curriculum vitae] and syllabi. I disagree with the report’s tenor, its selective use of evidence, and its conclusions. The evidence in the report appears to have been generated by key word searches and little more. The authors of the NAS report imply that any analysis of race, gender and class invariably leads to specific types of political bias, a conclusion that I find offensive and biased in its own right.”
Janet Davis,
Another of 18 UT history professors whose assignments were the subject of the NAS report