American Radicals and the Change We Could Believe In
Eric Foner:

“The American Radical Tradition” was never a simple course to teach. It presumed a basic knowledge of “mainstream” American history that not every undergraduate has,1 and it attracted an unusually diverse group of students, from history majors looking to complete departmental requirements to activists in search of a usable past.2 Many students, nonetheless, seemed to enjoy learning a history that few had encountered before. The online evaluations asked students to record what they took away from the course. “This class gave me a totally new perspective on American history,” said one. “The course taught me how to approach American history with a critical lens,” said another. And a third, perhaps a bit overenthusiastically, proclaimed: “I learned how to start a revolution.”3

  1. This is something that another teacher and I were talking about last week, and it frustrates me to no end because American literature in particular cannot be taught without students having or teachers giving a broad and, in many places, a deep history of the United States. ↩︎
  2. My own reading task for 2017 is this, to seek and excavate as a citizen, community member, artist, and educator a ‘usable past’… ↩︎
  3. I’m interested in what’s become of this evaluator. ↩︎