GW history majors no longer need US history course
- History majors at George Washington University will no longer be required to complete a course on U.S. History to complete their degrees, though it remains an optional focus.
- The school claims the new requirements are intended to help students get into top-tier graduate schools by allowing them to focus on a specific area of history.
History majors at George Washington University will no longer be required to complete a course on U.S. History to complete their degrees, though it remains an optional focus.
According to the program requirements, students must take at least one introductory course to fulfill graduation requirements, and may choose from among offerings such as the first half and second half of US history, World History, and Approaches to Women’s History.
Students can opt out of the requirement by scoring a 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement exams in the related subjects.
History majors must also take a Majors’ introductory seminar and eight to 10 upper-level courses before completing a thesis or capstone project.
Prof. Tyler Anbinder, who teaches mostly about the Civil War and Reconstruction era, does not see the change as a disservice to students, arguing that specializing in a specific area of history, like European or U.S. history, helps them gain entry to top-tier graduate schools.
Anbinder told Campus Reform that under the previous requirements, because GW students usually pursue a double major, history majors were unable to specialize and instead could only fulfill the minimum requirements.
“When those majors who wanted to go to grad school in history applied, they often could not get into top programs because they had so few courses in any one area,” he explained. “My U.S. history students had trouble getting into top PhD programs because two courses in U.S. history were not enough to establish the expertise necessary for graduate-level work.”
The previous upper-level requirements involved completing two courses each in US history, European history, and non-Western history—in addition to the introductory courses, Majors’ introductory seminar, and thesis.
“So, those who characterize these changes as an assault on American history are totally wrong. That was not the intention and that will not be the result,” Anbinder asserted. “The proposal came from the American history faculty in order to enable their students to take more American history. GW history majors will end up taking much more American history than before as a result of these changes, not less.”
For example, under the new requirements, a student who wants to specialize in Asian history will only have to take courses in Asian history.
The coursework would likely include HIST 1011: World History, 1500-Present; HIST 2605 or HIST 2605W, Majors’ Introductory Seminar: Asia (the “W” next to the course number indicates that it’s writing-intensive); and 8 to ten upper-level courses in Asian history, after all of which the student would complete a thesis.
“This way, someone who wants to take six courses in US history can do so and be qualified for a top grad program in that field,” Anbinder said. “And someone who wants to take six courses in Asian history and be qualified for a top grad program in that area can do so too. Six is really the minimum of upper-level courses you need to establish expertise for grad school these days.”
Although there is no foreign language requirement to complete the major, the department highly recommends prospective history graduate students take at least two semesters of a foreign language.
Department chair Katrin Schultheiss and other History faculty members did not respond to requests for comment from Campus Reform.
The requirements for the History minor remain the same.
(H/t: The College Fix)
Disclosure: The author minored in History at GW, completing the program requirements last summer.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JacksonRichman