The Department of History provides a broad range of courses to serve thousands of students who enroll in history classes for General Studies Level II credit and for many others, such as secondary school licensure students, who use history as part of their programs.
Moreover, the Department offers a program with breadth and depth for approximately 500 history majors and approximately 80 minors. Many of those students plan to teach on the elementary or secondary level; a few intend to go to graduate school. Some want to be informed members of society while pursuing careers including business, journalism, criminal justice, aviation, and law.
Besides preparing people for a variety of careers in which communication, research, and critical thinking skills are important, the discipline of history helps individuals determine where they fit in the community and helps remedy the lack of civic education that threatens to rend the social fabric of the nation. By giving students an appreciation of the persons and processes that have brought the United States to its place in the world and to its special position as a nation committed to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, history provides communities with the glue and continuity that keep a disparate and rapidly changing society from breaking apart. It provides students with an understanding of change by demonstrating the process of change in the past. It advances the common good by giving citizens common ground based on a shared understanding of the past.
The knowledge of history may not always prevent people from repeating past mistakes, but it affords them some chance of avoiding some of those mistakes. In times of national trial, history is of crucial importance. As historian Arthur Bestor has noted: “When the citizens of a nation do not know the sequence of events that brought them to where they are, they are powerless to decide the future path they ought to take. Panic may destroy them, when wisdom born of knowledge and perspective, might have enabled them to surmount their actual perils. Ignorant of history, they have become the prisoners—and even the victims—of history.” (Bestor, Western Humanities Review, 16: 3-9)
In addition to presenting evidence and fostering students’ ability to think critically, history instructors also require students to demonstrate their mastery of course content through written and oral communication. Moreover, in teaching research techniques instructors familiarize their students with current technologies including internet and electronic database resources.
Hence in four ways—critical thinking, communication/research skills, and the application of technology—history makes a significant contribution to the education of intelligent, competent, and well-rounded college graduates able to build careers for themselves while strengthening their communities and the nation. The Department’s goals and objectives are shaped by the above considerations.