American Liberal Arts Blog

Teaching the Liberal Arts in the American Context

Phil Hamilton

Teaching Millennials '18th century skills'
By Phil Hamilton on June 18, 2010

On Thursday at the Lehrman Summer Institute in Princeton, Gerson Moreno-Riano and I led a seminar entitled “Teaching Today’s Millennial Students ‘18thCentury Skills.’”

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Who Should We Write For?
By Phil Hamilton on April 14, 2010

I realize that not all monographs can or should be geared toward the general public.  We, as academics, are not simply popularisers of ideas and information.  But it seems to me that too few scholars ever try to reach a larger audience, which is unfortunate.

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Taking Students to Gettysburg
By Phil Hamilton on March 30, 2010

A few weeks ago, I took a dozen students from my university on a spring break field trip to the Gettysburg National Military Park.  We spent 3 days touring the field of action.  Although we endured blustery temperatures and tramped through some deep snow drifts, I found the experience highly rewarding and satisfying.

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An Interview with Walter McDougall
By Phil Hamilton on March 24, 2010

McDougallPhil Hamilton interviewed Walter A. McDougall last month about American history, his work as a teacher and writer, and about the profession of history in general.  Dr. McDougall is Professor of History and the Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is the author of seven books, including most recently Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 (2008).   In 1986, Dr. McDougall won the Pulitzer Prize for The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age.  He was a Teaching Fellow at the Lehrman American Studies Center’s 2009 Summer Institute at Princeton University.

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Teaching George Washington on President's Day
By Phil Hamilton on February 15, 2010

Every spring semester around President’s Day, I find myself covering the American Revolution in my US history survey class (historical chronology and the academic calendar are responsible for this coincidence).  During this part of the course, I spend considerable time reviewing George Washington’s career as both commander of the Continental Army and our first president.

The Washington Monument

Read the rest.

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Live from APSA's 2010 Teaching and Learning Conference (Part II)
By Phil Hamilton on February 06, 2010

At 10a.m. this morning, we presented our paper.  We argued that the American political system cannot be studied like other political regimes around the world simply because of the United States’ unique cultural, historical, and political development.

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Who Should Go to Graduate School?
By Phil Hamilton on February 04, 2010

A little over a month ago I wrote a blog entry about who should go to college. But what about who should go to graduate school? Every year around this time, I’m usually writing at least several recommendation letters for history majors who will be finishing in the spring and who wish to go to graduate school in the discipline for an M.A. or the Ph.D. This is often an enjoyable task, as I recall the growth and development of these students over the years. Over the past several years, I've been increasingly encouraging my best students to go to graduate school if they have a desire. I certainly think many of them have the potential to be fine scholars and instructors, and that they will find an academic career satisfying and worthwhile.

However, as I sadly look at recent trends in higher education (especially in the midst of the current economic downturn), I've been wondering if I've inadvertently sold some of my students down the river.

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Who Should Go To College?
By Phil Hamilton on December 24, 2009

In November, the Chronicle Review (published by the Chronicle of Higher Education) published a forum dealing with the question "Are Too Many Students Going to College?" The participants on both sides of the question put forth some compelling arguments regarding this question as well as about the benefits and costs of higher education. Given that most of us work in the field, I also thought that blog readers might wish to reflect upon this issue.

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"Hustler" Nation
By Phil Hamilton on November 13, 2009

In a recent post on teaching the U.S. history survey, I wrote about how best to discuss with students the complex paradoxes present in America's past. I also mentioned that freedom is one of my course's central themes. I typically examine the intellectual roots of the concept of human liberty, why freedom emerged in the British American colonies in the 17th–18th centuries, and how/why Americans have debated the parameters of freedom ever since. But I've always struggled to find the right balance in discussing some of the grimmer realities of American history alongside America's profoundly important ideals and idealism.

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about the author

Phil Hamilton
Phil Hamilton

I teach U.S. history at Christopher Newport University, located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. My courses include those on the American Revolution, Early Republic, slavery in America, and the Civil War era. I am a social historian and my research focuses on the changing nature of family life and public service in the late-18th and early 19th centuries.