In April’s Perspectives on History: Tuning the History Major, the Job Market, Historians’ Salaries, Humanities and Workplace Skills, and More

One year ago, Executive Director James Grossman introduced the AHA Tuning project in the pages of Perspectives. This month, we feature six articles related to the project—four from project participants and two from historians who have been watching closely.


Also in this issue, Nicholas Sarantakes, who blogs at In the Service of Clio, offers suggestions for ways the AHA can address the jobs crisis, reacting to the “Plan B” and “Plan C” articles by James Grossman and Anthony Grafton from 2011. Writing from Wheaton College, Yuen-Gen Liang and Touba Ghadessi offer their own suggestions with an article on developing workplace skills using the interdisciplinary humanities. Robert Townsend, AHA deputy director, presents data that could mean further trouble for the academic job market for historians, and notes that those in academic history jobs are facing ongoing salary compression as he compares academic history salaries to those of other fields.

News on the advocacy front is offered this month by Debbie Ann Doyle and Lee White, who both point out that Congress is showing little interest in the humanities as the reality of the sequestration sets in.

The Tuning project does not have all the answers to the problems facing the discipline, but the enthusiasm and sense of renewal from the participants is evident from their articles in this month’s Perspectives. David Trowbridge argues that we should take care of students “as if they were our own.” Elizabeth Lehfeldt found her department “recharged” by Tuning, and used the process to better communicate with a budget-cutting administration. Anne Hyde notes that it’s not just the administrators who want to be convinced of the value of history departments; she’s often “advising mom and dad” as to why their children should be allowed to major in history. And Elaine Carey, with co-authors from her department, gives a detailed explanation of how Tuning has helped coordinate a set of stakeholders and teachers that includes members of other departments, writing center personnel, and adjunct faculty.

Not formally involved in the Tuning project, but included in this forum as another example of what a clear articulation of the discipline can accomplish, Daniel Murphree provides an account of how Tuning provided an “unexpected bridge” to his institution’s Writing Across the Curriculum program.

The Tuning project has drawn several important criticisms from historians with concerns about standardization, assessment, and an overly utilitarian outlook. In this issue, Johann Neem offers a cautionary tale from the history of higher education—from a time when Yale attempted to defend the utility of its classical languages programs.

Readers learning about this project for the first time will be guided by James Grossman’s introduction to the forum, AHA President Kenneth Pomeranz’s essay on a teaching technique that’s hard to assess, and Tuning resources on the AHA website.

As always, we welcome reactions to and discussions of these articles, via Twitter (@AHAhistorians), Facebook, LinkedIn, and letters to the editor (perspectives@historians.org).

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