By John Leo
This is an excerpt from the new ACTA report, No U.S. History? How College History Departments Leave the United States out of the Major. It reveals that fewer than 1/3 of the nation’s leading colleges and universities require students pursuing a degree in history to take a single course in American history. Read the full report here.
Although it is reasonable to assume that at America’s top-ranked colleges and universities, education for meaningful citizenship would be a priority, that is a false assumption. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has delved into the requirements and course offerings in history departments at 76 of the nation’s leading colleges and universities to see how U.S. history fits into their programs. Only 23 undergraduate history programs at the U.S. News & World Report’s top 25 national universities, top 25 public institutions, and top 25 liberal arts colleges require a single U.S. history class.
The overwhelming majority of America’s most prestigious institutions do not require even the students who major in history to take a single course on United States history or government. Disregard for the importance of United States history in the undergraduate history major is matched by the overall disappearance of United States history requirements from general education, the core curriculum that should be part of every student’s education. ACTA’s annual “What Will They Learn?” survey shows that only 18% of the over 1,100 four-year colleges and universities in the study, public and private, require a foundational course in United States history or United States government.
The consequences of these weak academic standards are clear. ACTA’s surveys of college graduates reveal year after year deep and widespread ignorance of United States history and government. In 2012, 2014, and 2015, ACTA commissioned the research firm GfK to survey college graduates’ knowledge of American history. ACTA sees the same dispiriting results each time.