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Journal of American History

2002 Syllabi
Teaching outside the Box

Editors' Introduction
Gary J. Kornblith & Carol Lasser

U.S. Women Activists
Catherine Badura
Syallbus: 1998, 2000 | Article

The Black Athlete
Amy Bass
Syllabus | Article

Recovering Detroit's Past for History & Theater
Charles Bright

American History Since 1865
A. Glenn Crothers
Syllabus | Article

Intro to American History
John J. Grabowski
Syllabus | Article

American History
Cecilia Aros Hunter & Leslie Gene Hunter
Syllabus | Article

In Search of America's Civil Rights Movement
Alyssa Picard & Joseph J. Gonzalez
Syllabus | Article

Out of Many: Histories of the U.S.
David A. Reichard
Syllabus | Article

Women & Social Movements
Kathryn Kish Sklar
Syllabus | Article

Law & Society in American History
John Wertheimer
Syllabus | Article

Colonial & Revolutionary History of the Southern Tidewater
James P. Whittenburg
Syllabus | Article

American National Character
Michael Zuckerman
Syllabus | Article

Teaching Outside the Box:
Editor's Introduction

by Gary J. Kornblith and Carol Lasser

This year's "Textbooks and Teaching" section examines efforts to expand the teaching of college-level history courses beyond traditional classroom formats and boundaries. K-12 social studies classes have long included excursions to local museums and historical sites to help make history "come alive" for younger students. What, we wanted to know, is happening at colleges and universities to deepen students' appreciation of, and connection to, the past? What, we wondered, are the best practices in modes of teaching history that move us "outside the box"?

Upon posting a call for papers, we quickly discovered the abundance of energy and experimentation among historians teaching in institutions of higher education. Some faculty had left behind the traditional lecture/discussion format to create new collaborations and learning communities; others had physically moved their teaching beyond the four walls of their institutions; still others had found ways to empower their students to create and "authorize" new "texts"--from oral histories to material culture. Some efforts were unabashedly activist, making explicit connections between academically based community service, social change, and the study of history; others stressed engaging students in writing history for, and sometimes with, new audiences. Reports came from beginning instructors and distinguished senior professors, from community colleges and flagship research institutions, from large schools and small, and from both urban and rural environments. What all shared was an evident commitment to participatory education and to the cultivation of a passion for "doing"--not just reading--history.

We present here twelve reports from the field, demonstrating the astonishing vitality and range of innovative teaching. The reports describe service learning, community-oriented public history projects, collaborative research seminars, and traveling classrooms that educate head and heart. Topics include the use of material culture and electronic resources in history courses and the destabilization of classroom authority that historians confront when they move away from traditional formats. In these case studies, first-year students find their way into new historiographical frameworks while advanced undergraduates thrive as researchers and publishers. Clearly, no one size fits all in these new approaches to teaching. Most impressive is the ability of inspired faculty to collaborate with students in the creation of new engagements with the past. Here is evidence of the success of historians who, with imagination and perhaps audacity, connect their students to both real and "imagined" communities. As John Dewey wrote in 1916, the purpose of the study of history is "to enrich and liberate the more direct and personal contacts of life by furnishing their context, their background and outlook." Our reports suggest that teaching outside the box can accomplish that end.

The syllabi posted here are intended as supplements to the "Teaching and Textbooks" section. The Journal of American History has neither reviewed nor edited the content of these syllabi. They have, however, been reformatted for display on the Web.