This Spring Term, Chair of History Catherine Denial is offering a class that will examine major themes in American history that explains what led to the election of Donald Trump.
The class, titled “Trump in Historical Perspective,” was created after the Chronicle of Higher Education published a “Trump Syllabus,” which failed to recognize scholars and writers of color, women and those with LGBTQ backgrounds. Her colleagues drafted and created a new syllabus known as the “Trump Syllabus 2.0.,” which she then modified to fit the trimester schedule.
“I think history is more important than ever because you can be sold almost anything if you don’t understand your history and don’t understand … what informs the systems of our government, our institutions, our economy, what anxieties Americans have always held, and how they have exploited people because of those systems,” Denial said. “I think … it’s really important to have a sense of perspective and a sense of what this is all rooted in.”
Denial first drafted the syllabus after she heard people question how and why Donald Trump was elected.
“Some people saying ‘how could this happen,’ and some people not really grasping what was happening was not an aberration, but part of the continuation of some really long historical trends,” Denial said.
During the class, students will have the opportunity to examine topics such as race, immigration, cultural perceptions of Mexican communities, ideas about masculinity and femininity and how these ideas and topics formed Trump’s candidacy.
“I want people to have a more complicated understanding behind the history behind this contemporary moment,” Denial said.
According to Denial, “Trump in Historical Perspective” will fall under a rubric she created named “Great American Debates” and will tackle thematic issues rather than chronological issues. Under this rubric, she has taught classes covering topics such as birth control, reproduction and the history of marriage in America.
“There were a lot of things in contemporary American society that people could use a little history about in order to properly inform their understanding of the present,” Denial said. “If you know how something is created, you can work to resist it, dismantle it, improve it [and] change it much more easily.”