Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Grossman: "History Isn't a 'Useless' Major: It Teaches Critical Thinking, Something American Needs Plenty More Of"

Today's issue of The Los Angeles Times includes an Op-Ed by Dr. James Grossman, Executive Director of the American Historical Association: "History Isn't a 'Useless' Major: It Teaches Critical Thinking, Something America Needs Plenty More Of."

As Grossman explains, the number of students majoring in history has declined dramatically at colleges and universities across the country. In part, this decline is a response to the financial melt-down that started in 2008, which has led students and their parents to focus on what they see as more "practical" degrees that seem to lead directly to a career. Although political leaders from President Barack Obama to Senator Marco Rubio have encouraged this turn, Grossman points both to the skills and earning potential that come from degrees in liberal arts and humanities fields, like History. At the "mid-career" point (approximately 15 years after college graduation), people with an undergraduate degree in History earn the same average salary ($71,000/year) as those who majored in Business Administration; the History major brings a higher salary than many other majors that emphasize their "practical" earning potential. (Read more at "Majors That Pay You Back" from payscale.com) Note that these figures are for bachelor's-degree-holders, and do not factor in the additional earnings accompanying a graduate degree or law degree.

As Grossman writes:
"...Employers interested in recruiting future managers should understand (and many do) that historical thinking prepares one for leadership because history is about change — envisioning it, planning for it, making it last. In an election season we are reminded regularly that success often goes to whoever can articulate the most compelling narrative. History majors learn to do that.
"Everything has a history. To think historically is to recognize that all problems, all situations, all institutions exist in contexts that must be understood before informed decisions can be made. No entity — corporate, government, nonprofit — can afford not to have a historian at the table. We need more history majors, not fewer."
Read the full essay here.

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