A school named after George Washington is ditching its requirement for history majors to study American history. George Washington University has announced that required American History is now a thing of the past for students studying history. The department additionally removed requirements for foreign languages and North American and European history.
A desire to “recruit students” and “to better reflect a globalized world” were components of the change. This could be a result of lagging numbers of history majors enrolled at GW. “The department had 153 majors in 2011. However, in 2015, the figure dropped to 75 undergraduate students and 83 for 2016.”
The new requirements are structured as follows:
History majors must take eight to ten upper level courses: one on a time period before 1750, and three on different regions of the world, including Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Previously, students were required to take two courses focused on Europe and North America and complete a thesis or capstone project. Though the thesis requirement still exists, students can choose to complete “digital capstone projects” instead.
Students are still required to take an introductory history class, which could include American history. These requirements can be placed out of with a sufficiently high score on an Advanced Placement test. Proponents of this change can cite how roughly under one-third of colleges in America require American History as a topic for its history majors (many colleges, including the University of Chicago, took issue with that report, arguing that a requirement is unnecessary since most history majors elect to take classes about US history). However, most of those colleges are also not named after the first president.
When the University of Chicago’s History Department dropped its requirement for majors to write a thesis it was met with immense criticism by current students and alumni alike, and those changes had nothing to do with dropping any content requirements. It remains to be seen how these new requirements will go over at George Washington University and with its alumni.