Rewriting History

My son has been interested in military history since he read a book about the Civil War at the age of 10. His interest eventually blossomed into a decision to pursue a Ph.D. with the goal of teaching at a university. Currently, he’s a graduate student working on his master’s degree.

But his dream may not be achieved … at least not in the way he thought it would play out. Why? Because the academic world is increasingly reducing its support of military historians. The discipline is considered …

  1. Danihel Tornator
    Barbara Kidder: Let’s not forget Ricochet’s own  Paul A. Rahe, Professor of History at Hillsdale College!

    Encourage your son to write to Prof. Rahe and ask him for some good ideas about smaller, more traditional colleges.

    Your son sounds as if he will be an excellent teacher, especially, because he loves his subject!

    All is not lost!  Keep us informed of his progress. · 6 hours ago

    Sometimes there are excellent programs to be found at institutions that have a reputation for being liberal. For example, I know that Dr. Rahe studied under Donald Kagan at Yale. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kagan’sOn the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace for my History of Western Civilization class while I was in college. Many of the historians I most admire are military historians (e.g. Donald Kagan, Victor Davis Hanson, Max Boot).

    I certainly hope your son continues to pursue his dream! His field may become more a niche field, but I suspect that there will still be some excellent colleges that are unhappy with the current PC culture and greatly desire to hire professors with excellent credentials and a traditional approach to history.

  2. iWc

    Military history is still a respected field in the UK. And PhDs there are faster, because there is no teaching requirement. So look to the Empire!

  3. flownover

    So far I have advised my sixteen year daughter to go ahead and learn welding, as I question the choice to attend college at all. 

    Your son should seriously look into the growing accreditation of online colleges and their offerings, there is no reason why they wouldn’t offer a traditional course study. It must that the milieu sitting in the faculty lounge that can’t abide with the other. 

    If they can’t work within a rotten system, perhaps working outside is an option. It will certainly smell better and save water with less showers.

  4. Roberto

    Your post had me thinking that perhaps our own Mr. Dave Carter could provide some insight into your son’s desired career path, as a Senior Historian in the US Air Force this must be well traveled ground. He seems a man of exceedingly genial disposition, I hope you have not hesitated to solicit his advice on the matter. 

  5. Kofola

    (double post)

  6. Duane Oyen

    Sadly, tell him to go talk to Mary Graber and Mark Moyer.

  7. Kofola
    Bill Walsh: Well, if he really really really wants to be a historian, and he’s really really really good at it, go for it, of course. Otherwise, rethink or make sure to have a Plan B at the ready…

    I second Bill. I’m in the same boat. If your son’s ultimate goal is to become a history professor, have him consider: 5+ years of hard drudgery with limited gratification as a PhD student. Because the market is flooded, ABDs and fresh PhDs are passed up in most cases. This environment means 2-3 years on the job market, working low-pay, high volume visiting or adjunct work while you scramble to publish in order to break into a tenure track job. If you miss the boat within those 3 years, you’re then considered ‘stale’ and your chances become slim.

    Regrettably, no one told me any of this when I was considering this career path.

    I absolutely love history and I love teaching at the college level. From that standpoint, I don’t regret taking this route. However, if I could go back and start again, from an economic standpoint, I probably would have done something different.

  8. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    A sad but true tale from the heart of the culture war.

  9. Kervinlee

    Most everything I know I learned from The Story of Civilization, Will & Ariel Durant, Great Books of the Western World, Robt. Maynard Hutchins, Mortimer Adler, The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski,  Civilization by Kenneth Clark, and assorted others – Toynbee, Gibbons, Shelby Foote, Victor Davis Hanson, etc.

    These are all rather low-brow and pedestrian I guess but, at least as far as I can tell rather free of ideological baggage (maybe not, in Clark’s case but one can discount it without penalty) and can be read on one’s own — free from a professor’s prejudices and expectations of conformity. Not too helpful in gaining the needed credential for teaching here but at least one can learn some history.

  10. Robert E. Lee

    I’d suggest he look into a smaller school.  Austin Peay State University in Tennessee has a military history degree program, for instance.  The bigger name schools are all about politics, power, and prestige, not education.  Find a school where the three Rs take precedence over the three Ps.

    Roberto: Your post had me thinking that perhaps our own Mr. Dave Carter could provide some insight into your son’s desired career path, as a Senior Historian in the US Air Force this must be well traveled ground. He seems a man of exceedingly genial disposition, I hope you have not hesitated to solicit his advice on the matter.  · 1 hour ago

    Dave is a fantastic historian even if I do say so myself. :)

  11. HeartofAmerica
    Roberto: Your post had me thinking that perhaps our own Mr. Dave Carter could provide some insight into your son’s desired career path, as a Senior Historian in the US Air Force this must be well traveled ground. He seems a man of exceedingly genial disposition, I hope you have not hesitated to solicit his advice on the matter.  · 13 hours ago

    Interestingly enough he almost applied for a historian position with the military a couple of months ago. The location of the position was in Hawaii. He decided to remain focused on finishing his graduate degree.

  12. HeartofAmerica
    Kervinlee: Most everything I know I learned from The Story of Civilization, Will & Ariel Durant,Great Books of the Western World, Robt. Maynard Hutchins, Mortimer Adler,The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski,  Civilization by Kenneth Clark, and assorted others – Toynbee, Gibbons, Shelby Foote, Victor Davis Hanson, etc.

    All wonderful authors but here’s the interesting thing…his professors all share that these “writers” are not true historians and as such should not be receiving the attention and fame that they do. I’m not kidding.

  13. Barbara Kidder

    Let’s not forget Ricochet’s own  Paul A. Rahe, Professor of History at Hillsdale College!

    Encourage your son to write to Dr. Rahe and ask him for some good ideas about smaller, more traditional colleges (like Grove City College and James Mason Univ.)

    Your son sounds as if he will be an excellent teacher, especially, because he loves his subject!

    All is not lost!  Keep us informed of his progress.

  14. Robert E. Lee
    HeartofAmerica

    Interestingly enough he almost applied for a historian position with the military a couple of months ago. The location of the position was in Hawaii. He decided to remain focused on finishing his graduate degree. · 21 minutes ago

    I wish he had taken the position.  He could have still pursued his graduate degree and the experience would have been invaluable.  Pay wouldn’t have been bad either.

    HeartofAmerica

    All wonderful authors but here’s the interesting thing…his professors all share that these “writers” are not true historians and as such should not be receiving the attention and fame that they do. I’m not kidding. · 9 minutes ago

    This is not surprising.  The egos involved in academia will always insure that the only people who learn are those who strive to do so in spite of their “educators.”

    Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”?

  15. Amy Schley

    He should definitely read this blog … 100 Reasons Not To Go To Graduate School.

    The short version … grad school is a hell that prepares you for nothing but the hell of part-time temp work unless you are connected and the best of the best, while saddling you with enormous debt, stealing a decade or more of your life, and making any kind of family life difficult to impossible.

    For this type of character the academic life may become, after a certain point, a virulent poison. Men without marked originality or native force, but fond of truth and especially of books and study, ambitious of reward and recognition, poor often, and needing a degree to get a teaching position… 

    We of the university faculties are responsible for deliberately creating this new class of American social failures, and heavy is the responsibility. They come at a time when failure can no longer be repaired easily and when the wounds it leaves are permanent…

    The more widespread becomes the popular belief that our diplomas are indispensable hall-marks to show the sterling metal of their holders, the more widespread these corruptions will become…

    – William James, Harvard University, 1903

  16. Bill Walsh

    Well, if he really really really wants to be a historian, and he’s really really really good at it, go for it, of course. Otherwise, rethink or make sure to have a Plan B at the ready. Because the market for historians—outside of a few niche specialties like Islamic history—is shrinking, often drastically, not just because of faddish prejudices within the profession (like that against military history among professors of a certain age), while history departments continue to crank out more Ph.D.s than there are available jobs by a pretty wide margin.

    And—especially if you think that higher education is an unsustainable bubble—consider things might get dramatically worse before they get better. It’s pretty scary for those of us much of the way down that career path.

    This blog covers the profession—particularly in terms of the market for Ph.D.s and what they can do with the degree—in great detail. It’s a good starting point for anyone, though not for the faint of heart:

    In the Service of Clio

  17. OSweet

    He could jump ship and, linking up with a few experts in the field, start a Khan-Academy-style online DIY university for military history.

    How cool would that be.

  18. RushBabe49

    I’d say he should investigate the University of Cambridge in England.  All your original sources, right there.

  19. Lance Robinson

    Your son’s story is not uncommon. You have my sympathies. Too often, teaching at the college level is more about the personal and political gratification of the professors than about the education of the students, and totally divorced from any real connection to the real world. The military academies offer some opportunity, as well as the military professional schools/war colleges. Students would probably appreciate him, as they tend to have a pretty good BS filter for what is important and useful as opposed to what is puffery and fluff that is only to be absorbed temporarily for regurgitation and then flushing. Best wishes to him.

  20. HeartofAmerica

    He will finish his master’s in 2014. After that, I have no idea. But he has talked about choosing a university based upon having the ability to study history “on his own terms” (as he put it).

    He is quite the entrepreneur, so I like the idea of him starting his own educational website and selling services to like-minded individuals who want to study, learn and not be bombarded with agendas and egos.

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In