Sunday, January 13, 2019

Universities without history

“What is a university without a history major?” That’s a question from Kim Mueller, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who’s studying to be a history major. Quoted in a New York Times article about the declining fortunes of public higher education in rural America.

Memo to UW-SP: don’t claim to develop “heightened intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities” in students, don’t claim to prepare students “to constructively engage in local, regional and global communities,” if you’re prepared to take away forms of learning necessary to those efforts.

comments: 7

Chris said...

Well, if they want to call what they're running a business college or a teacher's college or a vocational school, that's fine, I'm sure there's a need for that, but then don't use the word "university," because that's not what it is.

Of course I'm sure that some people in this country would rather we didn't know much history.

Michael Leddy said...

Remarkable that schools that began as teachers’ colleges and were later named universities are now becoming more like vocational schools in their offerings.

I’m with you — I have nothing against vocational or technical education, but a university is something else.

zzi said...

"Me three"

Yale’s English department decided it will no longer require English majors study literary luminaries such as William Shakespeare and John Donne.

Michael Leddy said...

That would be a great loss (and a capitulation to what I would consider a reactionary and ill-considered understanding of literary study) but still a different loss from that of doing away with an entire field of study. Yale’s Spring 2018 course listings have five courses with Shakespeare in their titles.

Anonymous said...

A little late but just this week The New Yorker had an article about the decline in students overall studying history and mentioned Stevens Point. See

According to the article, the real issue is that UWSP wanted to reduce the number of faculty to save money and to do so they had to disband the department.


Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the link, Kirsten. I missed that one.

Michael Leddy said...

P.S.: I think he’s on target about why students at elite schools can “afford” to major in history. I’ve often said something similar: schools like Harvard and Yale will always have the humanities. The rest of us, maybe not so much.