Can anyone tell me why there are not more Presidential history courses being taught at universities?
Why, after all, is history taught to begin with? History is taught so that society has some understanding of where they came from. History gives us all context to place current events in, to give us a reference point to process everything thrown at us during every day life. History connects us with our ancestors, and helps us understand where we are going (if you ascribe to the idea that history is progressing toward some goal). And, at it’s very basic level, history is entertaining. The study of Middle Eastern history, for instance, gives Americans a greater sense of why there is so much chaos in the region and what effect different American actions are prone to have. Knowing about Revolutionary America is to give us a greater sense of our heritage, the successes and failures, moral heights and moral depths of American ideas. While America has not always been the land of equality and freedom, these are the ideas that have prevailed over all others. This is who we are.
So why is there no organized study of American leaders? I know that “Great Men History” is blasé among cultural historians these days, but it still serves an important purpose. With the Election of 2012 almost upon us, we are faced again with a populace left in the dark about what makes a great President. Everyone has their gut feelings and opinions, but how many actually build off an understanding of where Presidential history has come from to understand where it is going?
Presidential biographies are big sellers right now, thanks partially to the boom of history fascination in the United States. But they have always enjoyed some level of success. History classes focused on presidential history would not only create a group capable of analyzing current presidential politics, it could provide a wealth of new approaches to Presidential history which unfortunately is usually written by journalists.
Is there any value in teaching or learning Presidential history in a college setting? What are your thoughts?