Teaching History at Twenty-Five Years

Article excerpt

In history twenty-five years is a mere blink in time. In the journal world, twenty-five years can be an eternity. Every year fledgling journals and magazines rise and fall. Some make it to a second year, a few stay for a third, but many of them fade away quickly. Starting a new journal is scary--some might call it crazy, given the high odds favoring failure. All sorts of questions come to mind: Is there a place for us in the journal world? Can we offer anything new and different from our competition? Will there be enough good materials to fill our pages? Will readers find us? Will there be enough subscribers to generate enough money to pay the costs of copying, editing, printing, and mailing? Those of us who founded Teaching History in the mid 1970s asked all of these questions and more. Even knowing the challenges we faced, we decided to give our journal a go--and now in 2000 we are still at it, starting our twenty-fifth year.

Teaching History started at a caucus of historians at the Missouri Valley History Conference in Omaha in the spring of 1974. The intention was "to sound out grassroots sentiment ... on the possibility of publishing a newsletter-journal devoted to the teaching of history." Loren Pennington of Emporia State University, Philip Rulon of Northern Arizona University, and I--the founding triumvirate--stayed with the project through that year, measuring the work that a new journal would demand, and then at another meeting in Omaha in 1975 we decided to take the next steps.

In 1975-1976 we organized a management team and invited others to join us on a board of editors. One-by-one we built the membership of the editorial board until we had a total of eleven of us engaged in getting out the word and then getting out the journal. Pennington won agreement from Emporia State to house the journal and to provide publication, subscription, and mailing services; he also volunteered to become the publication director. Northern Arizona University and College of the Ozarks provided additional financial backing, which proved critical in the first couple of years when we distributed the journal without any subscription charges.

We walked a tight line in the first two or three years. But people found us--teaching historians began to send in manuscripts that I circulated among editorial readers. (Even now every manuscript gets at least four reviews.) Ron Butchart, then of SUNY at Cortland, began work as book review editor, contacting publishers and lining up reviewers. Slowly but steadily over several months, the first issue of Teaching History took shape, appearing in the spring of 1976 with a short introduction, an op-ed piece on the growing "crisis in the classroom," four essays, nine book reviews, and assorted notes.

We quickly began to get attention from professional organizations. The American Historical Association provided space in the AHA Newsletter for us to solicit authors, reviewers, and subscribers. The Georgia Association of Historians praised Teaching History for opening "fresh sources for professional historians who seek to improve their 50-minute hours," and the Kentucky Association of Teachers of History told its members that "Teaching History should be of special interest because it offers something for teachers of history at all educational levels." We appreciated all of those kind words of encouragement and committed ourselves to keep spreading the news about good ideas for the classroom.

Over twenty-five years many things have changed for Teaching History, but we have stayed true to the original commitment "to tap the minds and imaginations of history educators" and to share ideas that have "proven successful in the classroom." Sometimes we have shifted that last idea around to discuss teaching methods that failed. But we always have offered good fare to our readers.

While our mission stayed constant, we have seen changes in personnel at Teaching History. …