History majors at George Washington University will no longer be required to take a course in American history in order to graduate, the school’s newspaper reported.
The Hatchet, GWU’s campus paper, says the new change in the major’s requirements is part of an attempt to “draw in” students who would otherwise not want to enroll at GWU because of the United States history requirement, and allow them to “tailor their academic plans to better reflect a globalizing world.”
Katrin Schultheiss, the GWU history department chair, says the faculty made the decision to change their history requirements due to “enrollment pressures.” Only 83 GWU students majored in history in 2016, compared with 153 in 2011. With the new changes, history students will be required to take at least one introductory history course, one introductory history seminar, eight to ten upper division history courses, and a thesis or capstone project; but none of those courses need to be specific to American history anymore.
Faculty say this could become a major revenue booster for the school; however, the College Fix noted this speculation is misleading, as students can still choose to take courses outside of their major and thus provide the same revenue.
Denver Brunsman, an associate professor of history and the director of undergraduate services for the history department at GWU, says eliminating the U.S. history requirement reflects changes in how historians are studying history now, to include documentation of the developing world instead of specifically the U.S. and Europe.
“I think an important change in the history major has been to make our major actually reflect the field of history the way that historians study it now,” he said. “In the past – and I think our old standards reflected this – it was very common to have students take a class in American history, in European history and maybe, just maybe, something else, another part of the world.”
Schultheiss added this could give students more flexibility to choose the courses they enjoy and want to specialize in. But not all students are excited about this change.
“I think an important change in the history major has been to make our major actually reflect the field of history the way that historians study it now."
Denver Brunsman, associate professor of history at GWU
Jacob Chereskin, a fourth-year Middle East major at GWU, says eliminating the U.S. history requirement from the curriculum at a U.S. college will be counterproductive to how students will understand global affairs.
“I think it is a very poor decision on the part of the GW administration, particularly since it is on the part of an institution which prides itself on equipping students with tools to be politically active and aware,” Chereskin told The Daily Wire. “If a student learning international affairs or political science is ignorant of US history, they won't be able to make informed opinions on US policies at home and abroad.”
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