To the Editors of the Crimson:
There has been a great deal of discussion during the past year, at Harvard and elsewhere, as to whether a course in American history should be required for graduation. The reason for such a requirement is obvious,--namely, to make sure that young men going off to war know the background of the country and concepts for which they fight. The Harvard faculty had a sharp difference of opinion over the question, and, although President Conant has since stated that he favors requiring such a course (among other survey courses), the faculty has not yet voted its approval.
Aside from the fact that many faculty members dislike prescribing any more courses than is necessary, a very possible reason for their not being enthusiastic about prescribing a course in American history is that the present course, History 5, does not fill the bill. As a straight American history course, it is very good, but what is needed now is a course which will show that our country and history are not local and isolated, and that our basic concepts are shared by many other peoples throughout the world. If there is to be a prescribed history course it should not be History 5, but a new one." American history as a part of our civilization." This course should include part of the material on comparative governments given in Gov. I, it should point out how the United States has compared with other nations in foreign and domestic policy, and it should not waste time discussing events merely because they happened or because they are traditionally accepted American history topics.
Such a course was given at Barnard (part of Columbia) this summer with great success (see article in Time. Nov. 2, pg. 71). The Harvard faculty, if it is going to prescribe a course in American history, should see to it that that course presents America, not as an isolated unit, but in its relation to the rest of the world. Stanwood Kenyon '43.