“It’s a Lot of Fun”
by E. Bruce Geelhoed
The eminent American historian and biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. was once asked to provide a reason for the value of studying history. “Well, in the first place,” Schlesinger replied, “it’s a lot of fun.” For Schlesinger as to many historians and students of history, the study of history, at the basic level, is a pleasurable experience.
A number of factors contribute to the enjoyment of studying history. One factor comes from the experience of researching and writing about a person, event, or movement that has either been overlooked or has never been the subject of historical inquiry. Historians create new knowledge, and a thrilling experience of creation. A second enjoyable factor comes from the experience of talking about history, either with our students, our colleagues, or witnessing our students talking about history among themselves. These informal conversations give us the pleasure of arguing with each other (frequently), agreeing with each other (occasionally), and challenging each other’s views and interpretations. Thirdly, we derive pleasure from seeing the linkages between past and present as part of our experiences as scholars. Witnessing these connections provides us with some heightened insights and perceptions about the modern world.
Given the pleasure of studying history, the History Department at Ball State University is placing a renewed emphasis on strengthening our existing programs: the Social Studies Education major, the Public History major, and the M.A. program. Strengthening these programs means finding fresh approaches to recruiting new majors, providing them with a career-ready education, assisting them with the process of placement, and maintaining a relationship with them as alumni. Dr. Michael Gurlea has joined our faculty as the new director of Social Studies Education, and he will be maintaining the momentum that has occurred recently in that program. The Public History program, under the direction of Dr. Wendy Soltz, has grown impressively in the past few years in terms of the number of majors and the variety of their internship placements. Dr. Soltz has also obtained external funding to support some of the new initiatives in this field. The M.A. program, under the direction of Dr. Dan Ingram, has made some recent reforms that will provide more interdisciplinarity to the program and also enable qualified undergraduate students to earn graduate credit for some of their coursework prior to graduation.
As historians at Ball State, faculty and students alike, we know that history matters. Everyone needs a solid, workable understanding of the past and we’re committed to remaining an integral part of the teaching and learning process at Ball State.