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Why Don't More Colleges Teach Military History


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Interesting article. Like to hear your views!

 

 

 

"Why Don't More Colleges Teach Military History?

Despite its enduring public appeal, and a country at war, the subject gets little respect on campus

By Justin Ewers

Posted April 3, 2008

Five years into the war in Iraq, military history seems to be experiencing a golden age. Hollywood has been cranking out war movies. Publishers have been lining bookstore shelves with new battle tomes, which consumers are eagerly lapping up. Even the critics have been enjoying themselves. Two of the last five Pulitzer Prizes in history were awarded to books about the American military. Four of the five Oscar nominees for best documentary this year were about warfare. Business, for military historians, is good.

 

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Except, strangely enough, in academia. On college campuses, historians who study military institutions and the practice of war are watching their classrooms overflow and their books climb bestseller lists—but many say they are still struggling, as they have been for years, to win the respect of their fellow scholars. John Lynn, a professor of history at the University of Illinois, first described this paradox in a 1997 essay called "The Embattled Future of Academic Military History." The field, he wrote, with its emphasis on predominantly male combatants and its decidedly non-theoretical subject matter, "has always been something of a pariah in U.S. universities." For years, military historians have been accused by their colleagues of being, by turns, right wing, morally suspect, or, as Lynn puts it, "just plain dumb." Scholars who study D-Day or the Battle of Thermopylae may sell books and fill lecture halls, but they don't have much success with hiring committees.

 

This state of affairs, needless to say, vexes military historians to no end. As the Iraq war plods along, shackled to frequent—and often misleading—comparisons to Vietnam and World War II, scholars with a deep understanding of war would seem to be in high demand. But, at many prestigious schools, they are not. "Military history today is in the same curious position it has been in for decades: extremely popular with the American public at large, and relatively marginalized within professional academic circles," writes Robert Citino, a professor of history at Eastern Michigan University, in a recent issue of the American Historical Review, the flagship journal of the historical profession. "While military history dominates the airwaves...its academic footprint continues to shrink, and it has largely vanished from the curriculum of many of our elite universities."

 

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(This thread has been edited in line with the forum policy of posting only excerpts from copyrighted articles)

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I think it is also due to the unwillingness to accept why states form central, federal governments: primarily for for trade and mutual defense. It's popular now to say that the federal government squanders money on national defense forces, but if you go back to the Articles of Confederation, the first reason given for the colonies to unite was:

 

"Article III. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever."

 

And of course the The Preamble to the US Constitution states:

 

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

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because many colleges are very liberal and the student body against the wars since Vietnam

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CNY Militaria

I have found the problem of professors unwilling to teach mil history courses because its too "difficult" emotionally for them. The most popular and difficult courses to get into at any college (In NYS anyways) relate to the military.

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I have found the problem of professors unwilling to teach mil history courses because its too "difficult" emotionally for them. The most popular and difficult courses to get into at any college (In NYS anyways) relate to the military.

too difficult to teach a war(s) they protested :rolleyes:

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This poem by M. Atwood sums up how military historians are seen by most of the academic world:

 

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=177286

 

The Loneliness of the Military Historian

by Margaret Atwood

 

 

Confess: it’s my profession

that alarms you.

This is why few people ask me to dinner,

though Lord knows I don’t go out of my way to be scary...

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Kurt Barickman

Brig hit the nail on the head. pinch.gif

 

Kurt Barickman

My hobby is my job and my job is my hobby. High School and University History Instructor

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Kurt Barickman

What would happen if the fear of cancer stopped the medical profession from studying oncology? It just doesn't make any sense?? think.gifthink.gif

My hobby is my job and my job is my hobby. High School and University History Instructor

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because many colleges are very liberal and the student body against the wars since Vietnam

 

We have a winner! Give that man a lollipop. ;)

 

You are absolutely correct Brig. Many colleges and universities in this day and age are more anti-war then they were in the past. Even in the technology field of study, far from military history, I have a peace seeking, crazy hippie for a teacher. Go figure. :blink:

 

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We have a winner! Give that man a lollipop. ;)

 

You are absolutely correct Brig. Many colleges and universities in this day and age are more anti-war then they were in the past. Even in the technology field of study, far from military history, I have a peace seeking, crazy hippie for a teacher. Go figure. :blink:

 

- Jeff

I'll take a shot instead

 

someone was telling me about a teacher they had who decided to go live in a hole in nature...literally..

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I am now 15 years removed from my college days, but must admit even after the ending of the first Gulf War, my history profs who were well versed in military history, and who may have even enjoyed it, said not a word on the topic. One professor I was quite close to stated that the administration frowned upon the glorification of war. They obvously hadn't taken his Vietnam War course in order to deduce he told it like it was and wasn't glorifiying a thing (he was a former airborne member who served '68-70). As Justin so aptly noted, his Vietnam class, and those courses like it, filled up quite quickly- in fact, there was a three year waiting list to take his class alone.

 

Colleges assume that all students must shiver at the topic of military history, when, as the course sign ups attest, just the opposite is true. It even happens in my middle school...kids who constantly ask me questions concerning WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam because they are covered so quickly in their history class (by the way, the holocaust was coverd by our history teacher yesterday - one thirty-five minute period! How about that!). All of WWI took only three days, WWII will take four. Sad state of affairs across the board.

 

I'm off the soapbox now.

 

Ken

I am actively seeking USMC Named Good Conduct Medals and items pertaining to the USS Indianapolis CA35.



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Yeesh I had an entire semester devoted to WWII for one college class, then another class was a Korea/ Vietnam split. Even in those we had to gloss over things!

 

Kyle

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Hi Guys

Have worked in the hallowed halls of academia I believe that I might add a small window of insight to the discussion.

As much as I hate to admit a Marine has added a very brilliant observatation to the discussion I must say that Brig is a very intelligent lad. The very fact that the insane are running the institute is obvious in this instance. The Halls of Higher education is without question an ivory tower where reality is rarely ever a concern to the poobas. Theory is everything. In theory we can solve all of mankinds problems. All you have to do is convince the great uneducated and unwashed masses is that the genius of theory should reign. Hey that sounds great. ?????BUT WHO ARE THE GENIUSES EXTRAPOLATING THIS THEORY????? At present they are the ones that hid out in college to avoid the draft in the 60's and early 70's. Addmitedly so they are very intelligent. Their ploy of staying in school 6 to 8 years and earning graduate masters and post graduate PHD's and and other alphabet degrees was successful. The war was pretty much over by the time they finished. The well educated really had a problem associating with the wave of Veterans coming back to school on the GI bill and really did not want to interact with same. So what happened guys let their hair grow long, smoked dope and partied with the geniuses and spoke little about their past service to avoid the instant argument that that fact would cause. Nobody likes being called a motherf*ckin babykiller, a pig, a brainwashed zombie, etc., etc., etc.. The split tails were adamently against any show of macho testorone based daring do and being a veteran was the epitomy of same. Everybody wants to get laid so you didn't talk about military service or you went over to the dark side and preached against everything you believed and were just to be popular. (To get laid) The 70's and early 80's were not a good time to be a vet. A synopsis of what I observed during that period.

The good thing about being part Native American and from a western background my own personal culture told me different. My case was even a little harder in that I was a Vietnam vet in the Art Department. w00t.gif That was a real rush. ( using the vernacular of the times) There were times that my unabashed patriotism and refusal to believe that everything I and my fellow military personell of the time did was a war crime made them apoplectic. I was the sinner the preacher just couldn't get to the alter and it dumfounded the others. Therefore I was the department a$$hole. Anytime any discussion about the war occured My Lai inevitably came up. Well Hell. I wasn't part of that and never knew anybody that was. I can't say why they did it but it damn sure wasn't me. I do understand the frustration of fghting an invisable enemy but I could never gun down unarmed women, kids and old folks. It puts me to much in mind of my Indian grandmothers peoples history. If I thought someone was an enemy combatant I would turn them into a maggot farm in an instant. That very fact got me labeled as a physcopathic monster to be very afraid of. The biggest problem that really pissed off the rest of the faculty was that students liked my classes and they were always full the first 3 hours after early enrollment was opened. I was always realistic about my thoughts and did not bullsh*t the students about their chances in their fields of endevor. I told them it takes 6 months to 2 years to find a job in their chosen fields and you will start at the bottom unless daddy owns the company.

What this rambling rant comes back to is that reality scares the sh*t out of the folks living and teaching in their Ivory towers. War is as real as it gets.The smell of a torn up body can be overpowering but you can get used to it. Not a pleasent memory but you can live with it. Military history is about reality. What caused it and what the reprecussions of same are. Living and teaching in an Ivory tower and being of a generation of antiwar folks has much to do with the demise of military history as a relevant subject. That is until other wars start AND THEY ALWAYS WILL you need to know and understand what is and will really happen. " REALITY " It scares the hell out of those in a theoritical world.

Being a highly educated individual I can't say these are the thoughts of an old fart but these are the musings of aged flatulence.

The Old Okie

Steve

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Kurt Barickman

Great well thoughout response Steve thumbsup.gif

My hobby is my job and my job is my hobby. High School and University History Instructor

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usncollector

I love how all the responses come from you 40-70 somethings.

 

If ANYTHING, it is not the teachers nor the students fault, no matter their political affiliations. Each college in my state has at least a few history/poli sci courses a semester, that are always full. The "History of the Cold War" class offered next semester was full in 5 minutes!!!

 

The reason that these classes are being overlooked is because of the economy and current social values. It's not the 1950's anymore kids!! Citizenship stops at 5th grade. The focus instead shifts on how you can become a contributive member to the economy. What can you do with a history degree besides teach or be a curator?? (of course there are more options but that, but most kids see it that way. Business management, foreign affairs, and economics are much more stressed by colleges, parents, and society alike.

 

You all, each time you buy things off eBay and the like, are contributing to business and capatilistic motives which the youth of today crave. Kids today want to be at the top, and being a multi-millionaire is plausible through mass outlets like the internet. History can't give you that.

 

By the way, I am a history major.

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Stinger Gunner USMC

As a current student at a university I can say that I find myself in the position that I must defend myself as a combat veteran daily. I wear a Marine Corps ball cap proudly everyday and usually get a couple negative remarks, but the ocasional Oh-Rah, or SemperFi in the hallways from fellow Marine Veterans more than makes up for the negativity that I receive.

I registered for my fifth semester recently and next semester will be the first time a military history subject will offered (Civil War) and it was given to the junior professor of the institution and only alloted 30 seats. The college supposedly offers Revolutionary War, WWI and WWII courses but I have not seen them actually offered since I have been there. I keep asking and they keep telling me that there is no interest in the subject by the instructors so they will not offer them.

In all three American History courses that I have taken the instructors skipped the periods of war, one stating that "they didn't care about it" (refering to the World Wars) and the other saying "what happened wasn't that important" (refering to the American Revolution).

If my education wasn't being paid for by the government and I wasn't dedicated to my goal of becoming an Marine Officer there is no way that I would still be in this college.

Just my 2 Cents

Cpl James A Paris, USMC
Stinger Missile Gunner
H&S Co. Support Bn MCRDSD 2002-2003

MarDet Ft Bliss, TX 2003
2nd Plt 1st Stinger Btry, Okinawa 2003-2004
2nd Plt A Btry 3rd LAAD BN Camp Pendleton, CA 2004-2006

Please visit my blog: http://ourcountrysheroes.blogspot.com/

 

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I am glad you are a history major lad. Once you are out of school living in the real world you will have an epiphany and realize that the perspectives of the individuals that were there are relevant. Especially as in my case where I was involved in University level institutions in question and attitudes of the individuals of the period at the instructors level. You know. The area where you are learning the answers to all the worlds questions at the moment. The biggest problem being is that the minute you get out in the real world all of the questions will change. w00t.gif That is the nature of post secondary education at the academic level. The instruction of military history by others than those that were a part of it is all theory. Yes you are being told that monetary gain is behind everything and that to a point is true. Everybody wants to do as well as they can. But that is not the answer to the questions posed. "Why isn't military history being taught at the post secondary level?" It is relevant to consider the attitudes of those in charge and those doing the job at the moment. The vast majority of education administrators and educators attitudes were formed in the 60's and 70's. The period when patriotisim and military service were considered cornball and mindless. The folks with this attitude are the ones running the show at the moment. Like it or not. They are the same boys and girls that were flying Communist Viet Cong and NVA flags at the loveins and concerts. Despising any that served in the military unless they "bawled and squawled crying.gif " about how terrible their service was. I did not fit into that catagory. Being of Native descent I pow wowed heavy where at every dance it started with a flag dance and veterans were honered with a veterans dance during the proceedings. I also hung out in cowboy bars where I scrapped a lot. I damn sure wasn't ashamed of being a veteran that would fight for his principals. Sometimes I fought over booze and women but that is a different story. So at the moment there have been 2 generations of educators that were heavily influnced by the Vietnam War in a manner as to be negative in the perception of same. There-fore the study of military history was put on the very far back burner to evaporate into what we have today and remain so until the sh*t hits the fan and people will demand to know why this subject has been allowed to dwindle to a shadow in the halls of academia.

A well educated observation of a 60 something.

Steve Ray MA,EdS

 

I love how all the responses come from you 40-70 somethings.

 

If ANYTHING, it is not the teachers nor the students fault, no matter their political affiliations. Each college in my state has at least a few history/poli sci courses a semester, that are always full. The "History of the Cold War" class offered next semester was full in 5 minutes!!!

 

The reason that these classes are being overlooked is because of the economy and current social values. It's not the 1950's anymore kids!! Citizenship stops at 5th grade. The focus instead shifts on how you can become a contributive member to the economy. What can you do with a history degree besides teach or be a curator?? (of course there are more options but that, but most kids see it that way. Business management, foreign affairs, and economics are much more stressed by colleges, parents, and society alike.

 

You all, each time you buy things off eBay and the like, are contributing to business and capatilistic motives which the youth of today crave. Kids today want to be at the top, and being a multi-millionaire is plausible through mass outlets like the internet. History can't give you that.

 

By the way, I am a history major.

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This discussion reminds me of an incident a few weeks ago. Our school had a National Guard set up in the middle of the university's square, and I noticed there was a student walking back and forth with a sign that read, "Militarism = Totalitarianism." When I came back from lunch and walked back to the same area, there was another guy to his right with a sign that pointed to him and read in all caps, "LIAR."

 

Unfortunately, you have a lot of egg heads at these universities who choose to go after our military as opposed to or in addition to the policy makers in D.C. It will take awhile before we see more military history courses offered at universities unfortunately. The one I am at presently doesn't have any that I'm aware of right now.

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airborneboy

Same here in France. I spent hours trying to find a university to study military history. I managed to find some info from Canada (a bit far from home), Caen and Paul Valery in Montpellier. Unfortunately i need to study something else for 2 years before. I've applied to a military school so now it is wait and see and lots of revision for the Bac.

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As a matter of fact, business has never been so good for professional historians as after the advent of the Internet. Also, it is obvious you haven't got a clue about the policies that trump the content of most history courses worldwide. Perhaps you will learn after enough reading and reflection.

 

Military history is overlooked because it is intrinsecally conservative. It does not fit in well with the Foucault and Derrida crowd.

 

 

I love how all the responses come from you 40-70 somethings.

 

If ANYTHING, it is not the teachers nor the students fault, no matter their political affiliations. Each college in my state has at least a few history/poli sci courses a semester, that are always full. The "History of the Cold War" class offered next semester was full in 5 minutes!!!

 

The reason that these classes are being overlooked is because of the economy and current social values. It's not the 1950's anymore kids!! Citizenship stops at 5th grade. The focus instead shifts on how you can become a contributive member to the economy. What can you do with a history degree besides teach or be a curator?? (of course there are more options but that, but most kids see it that way. Business management, foreign affairs, and economics are much more stressed by colleges, parents, and society alike.

 

You all, each time you buy things off eBay and the like, are contributing to business and capatilistic motives which the youth of today crave. Kids today want to be at the top, and being a multi-millionaire is plausible through mass outlets like the internet. History can't give you that.

 

By the way, I am a history major.

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  • 4 weeks later...
because many colleges are very liberal and the student body against the wars since Vietnam

 

I tend to agree. The thing I disliked about both college and university was how many professors taught their political opinions as fact- and the students are kids, who get a 101 course under their belts and then think they know everything there is to know. I had that impression even when I was 18 and enrolled. These educated people teaching the courses are smart enough to know this but it seems they have the smart people's disease, which imparts on them the inability to see any viewpoint but their own, and worse- the need to impress that "correct" viewpoint on those they "educate".

 

It's BS commu-hippie (is that term redundant?) claptrap in my opinion. For what it's worth, I was born in 1971 so my "higher education" experience was in the '90s

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This discussion reminds me of an incident a few weeks ago. Our school had a National Guard set up in the middle of the university's square, and I noticed there was a student walking back and forth with a sign that read, "Militarism = Totalitarianism." When I came back from lunch and walked back to the same area, there was another guy to his right with a sign that pointed to him and read in all caps, "LIAR."

 

 

Oh, I like that. Too bad you didn't take a photo...or did you? I assume you have a cel phone, did you take a pic? I'd love to see it

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