What Happened to American History?
While looking through the Courses of Instruction, Dartboard noticed that our venerable institution takes history very seriously—there are concentrations in History and Science, History and Literature, History of Art and Architecture, a committee on the History of American Civilization and of course just plain History. This focus on history seems fitting for the oldest academic institution in America, one that prides itself on producing some of American history’s most influential figures—John Adams, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Yet of the courses offered in American history, few, if any, courses focus on the political events that shaped this nation. Most courses feel that social, cultural and economic factors are more important than the political climate of the day.
Take, for example, the American Revolution, an event that surely deserves the attention of any serious student of American history. The deeds of the Adamses, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison and Washington have had a lasting on shaping the nature of American society. Yet there is no course specifically focusing on the Revolution through the drafting of the Constitution.
Sure, there are courses on “Material Life in Early America,” “The Cultural History of the First British Empire,” “The Frontier in Early America” and “Ordinary Lives in Revolutionary America,” but Dartboard doesn’t really care what John Q. Public thought about the Revolution, what settlers in Kentucky were up to or what kind of paintings and chairs the colonists purchased. Dartboard wants to know why the Articles of Confederation were rejected and what the debate over Federalism was all about. It’s important for citizens to understand who John Hancock was and why Patrick Henry wanted liberty or death.
As the history of the Union progresses, more and more courses are offered on political issues: “Jacksonian America,” “Reconstruction,” and “The New Deal.” But be that as it may, these courses are islands in a sea of social and cultural offerings like “Communication in the Early Nation.”
While the History Department shouldn’t eliminate social and cultural history, both of which have a place in the field, the department cannot justify depriving students of the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of how America came into existence. Surely a course entitled “The American Revolution” isn’t too much to ask.
—GANESH N. SITARAMAN
RE: Your Rejection From Harvard
Congratulations to the Harvard Office of Admissions. Not only for considering the dubious academic and extra-curricular qualifications of the Editorial Board and choosing us to fulfil Harvard’s “untalented student” quota, but also for their exciting decision announced yesterday to send out some early admissions decisions by e-mail. Anxious high school seniors will no longer have to endure those anxious December days (perhaps as many as three of them) waiting for their “snail” mail to arrive. Heck, think of the high-speed gloating which can be done as the acceptance e-mail can forwarded at once to multitudinous friends and family. Dartboard would like to suggest that acceptance e-mails arrive with the title line “Big (Virtual) Envelope” and that rejections be labelled “Fwd: Thanks, But No Thanks.”
Dartboard is, though, concerned that many people here spend far too long plugged into their computers and not nearly enough time switched on to the world around them. How many students lament that they never get a chance to make the arduous ten minute journey into Boston but spend hours playing Snood, chatting banally on Instant Messenger or searching the Internet for virtual girls when they should out be looking for real dates? E-mail seems as vital to Harvard students’ existence as Vitamin C. Administrators should arrest these worrying trends, not encourage them.
Any people who couldn’t bear to wait another day and a half to find out if they got into Harvard are not students who we want to see around the place. Perhaps they should speak instead to Dean Charles Inouye up in Davis Square. Tufts—a superior academic institution, after all—would clearly welcome these hard working souls and we would bid them a hasty adieu. By e-mail, of course.
—ANTHONY S.A. FREINBERG