I hope you can see the irony in the announcement from George Washington University. The administration announced that it would no longer require history majors to take a class in American history. Yes, the university named for our first American president won’t require students graduating with a history degree to actually take a course on the history of this country.
I guess this shouldn’t be so surprising. I remember when my alma mater, Yale University, decided to return a $20 million gift to Lee Bass that would have been used to educate students about the history of Western civilization. Of course part of the problem with that donation was the desire for Mr. Bass to have some say in hiring faculty. Yale balked at that requirement and returned the gift.
Many other colleges and universities no longer require courses in the history of Western Civilization or the history of the United States. Perhaps that explains why college students know so little about our history. You may have seen the YouTube video from a student group at Texas Tech University that went around campus and asked three questions: “Who won the Civil War?”, “Who is our vice president?” and “Who did we gain our independence from?” Their wrong answers were cringe-worthy. Their blank stares and no answers were discouraging.
Ian Tuttle reminds us in a recent column that George Washington bequeathed his 50 shares in the Potomac Company “towards the endowment of a UNIVERSITY to be established within the limits of the District of Columbia.” It was originally named the Columbian College, but later renamed “the George Washington University” in honor of its founder.
I hope that someone with a video camera might go on the George Washington campus and ask some of the students how much they know about George Washington, the founders, and the Constitution. Then they should show it to the administration that believes that a U.S. history class should be optional.