California Forum

Another View: Additional course will not undermine teaching of history

Tribune News Service

Missing from the Forum commentary about the inclusion of an additional course to assist students with meeting their American Institutions requirement at Sacramento State is some very important context and background information (“Substituting anthropology for American history is wrong move”; Forum, May 3).

Students who graduate from the California State University system must complete an American Institutions and Ideals requirement, commonly called American Institutions, that includes coursework on the historic development of American institutions, the U.S. Constitution, representative democratic government under the Constitution, and the processes of California state and local governments.

CSU students have several options for meeting the historic development component of the American Institutions requirement. They can take Advanced Placement coursework in high school or pass examinations prior to coming to the university; take a course at a community college; or test out of taking a course once at the university through a challenge exam. They also can enroll in one of several upper- or lower-division courses that, until the passage of this one anthropology course, were solely offered by our History Department.

Nothing changed with regard to the American Institutions requirement with the inclusion of this additional course. This anthropology course was reviewed and approved by a committee of faculty members, not administrators, who ensure that courses have learning outcomes, that students are being taught a curriculum that is current and relevant, and that individual campus and chancellor’s office educational requirements are being met.

My colleague asserted that this anthropology course would be detrimental, especially to incoming first- and second-year students. Yet, these students cannot enroll in this particular class because it is an upper-division course, one not available to them until their junior or senior year. The fact is that the vast majority of first- and second-year students coming to Sacramento State meet this requirement by enrolling in courses in the History Department.

A single course in another department and related discipline will not undermine the entire department and field of history. Unfortunately, zero-sum thinking has led us to believe if we support ideas that cut across disciplines or if we support something new and different that that will somehow diminish us. It will not. Indeed, maybe such challenges to the status quo will help us find common ground to come together to provide additional educational opportunities for our students and, at the same time, reduce bottlenecks that can be impediments to a timely graduation.

B. Dana Kivel is a professor and chair of the General Education/Graduation Requirements Policy Committee at California State University, Sacramento.