ON-Lion Letter
Less than one-third of the colleges and universities in the United States annually ranked as the country's best schools require students pursuing a degree in history to take a single course in American history, according to a shocking recent report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) in Washington, D.C.

No U.S. History?:  How College History Departments Leave the United States out of the Major shows that 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.

Many of the same institutions that do not require history majors to take a course on U.S. history do specify that they must complete coursework on areas outside the U.S.  And many allow some very strange, highly specialized topics to substitute for a course on the U.S.  History majors at Williams College could choose "Soccer and History in Latin America:  Making the Beautiful Game."  At Swarthmore, one choice could be "Modern Addiction:  Cigarette Smoking in the 20th Century."  At Bowdoin, it might be "Lawn Boy Meets Valley Girl."

Of the 23 schools that do list a U.S. history requirement, 11 permit courses like "Hip-Hop, Politics, and Youth Culture in America" (University of Connecticut) or "Mad Men and Mad Women" (Middlebury) to fulfill that requirement.

"Historical illiteracy is the inevitable consequence of lax college requirements, and that ignorance leads to civic disempowerment," ACTA president Michael Poliakoff said.  "A democratic republic cannot thrive without well-informed citizens and leaders.  Elite colleges and universities in particular let the nation down when the examples they set devalue the study of United States history."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports ACTA.
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