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Letter from the President of the World History Association.

The Age of Outreach

The holding of the World History Association's 22nd Annual Conference at North Hennepin Community College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, represents a "first" in terms of local hosts, but, like its venue at a secondary school last year, it marks yet another step in the growth of the WHA as an institution serving the wider world history community at a time when such outreach is needed more than ever before. We are witnessing an increase of pressure upon community colleges to do even more with even less resources, often by being asked to carry the load for introductory and general education courses in world history where they are partners with their states' university systems. The WHA is addressing this issue by various means which we hope to address through the colloquium for community colleges to be held at our upcoming meeting in Minnesota that is designed to build bridges between and among them and also the WHA.

Another challenge facing the teaching of world history is the effort to reduce history courses to elective status among reduced social sciences course requirements that is a feature of many current education reform proposals for the schools. To address this issue, I have personally sought to increase WHA visibility through member participation in other history and social science conferences, by linkages with likeminded associations, such as the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH)), and participating in activities at and through the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the National Council for History Education (NCHE), which share our concern at the potential loss to students of the key analytical tools history education can provide.

More directly, I have asked WHA members to increase their participation in volunteer participation on panels such as those addressing the Common Core and parallel curricular reform initiatives. WHA members are now participating in discussions with NEH and up-coming grant-supported initiatives to improve and expand the delivery of world history content. It has also led to the WHA to seek new education alliances, such as with California's History Blueprint.

As a non-profit, the WHA is prohibited from activities such as lobbying. Nonetheless, over the past year, I have received numerous requests for support from teachers whose school systems are under pressure to weaken their world history. On these occasions, I have responded by sharing the WHA's longstanding concerns regarding necessity of maintaining the highest standards in the teaching of world history and other affirmations and resources as is permitted. Such requests for WHA support may become more strident in the future. I believe the WHA will prove be equal to the task of addressing them in a manner that falls within the boundaries of WHA's legal constraints.

The WHA Teaching Committee, under the leadership of its Chair, James Diskant, was asked to, and has eagerly risen to take on, fresh responsibilities, especially that of surveying and otherwise seeking out the needs of classroom teachers at all levels of instruction.

At the same time, the WHA is expanding its global reach and international profile by co-sponsoring panels and programs at the annual meeting of history educators in Europe (EuroClio), as Jonathan Schulman of the California World History Association and I recently did at our own expense at their recent meeting in Turkey.

The WHA is also expanding its sponsorship of symposia on world history issues: the next two years will see financially self-supporting symposia on "Faith and Empire" in Fremantle, Australia, Oct. 3rd-5th, 2013; on "Vietnam in World History" in Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec. 29th-31st, 2013; on "Port Cities in World History" in Barcelona, March 27th-29th, 2014; as well as the WHA's every third year international annual meeting in Costa Rica on July 15th-18th, 2014, among whose themes will be the "Environment in World History." See the WHA website for further details on these and other symposia as they are announced.

While there happily appears to be no limits to the creativity and energy of your officers and many members, there are limits to our resources. To address that issue, the WHA introduced this past December a new income-based membership scheme. I am happy to say that this did not lead to a reduction in paid memberships, but it also did not lead to a hoped-for increase in memberships or revenue.

We have neither greatly grown nor shrunk over the past few years, which is not a bad situation given the current hard economic times. However, without a more robust and dynamic membership, we cannot be confident of continuing to meet the growing challenges we now face. For that, we must appeal to more of those who enjoy teaching world history and/or who wish to share their knowledge within this growing field to join the only professional association wholly devoted to assisting them in continuing to have the opportunity to do so.

To achieve that goal, the WHA needs to reach more in our field with the message that membership in the WHA, regardless of its individual benefits, is vital to the promotion of research in and the teaching of world history, to say nothing of preserving our profession. This is not a mere money issue, but should not the volunteer members who selflessly do outreach for the WHA have the resources to help them in this work--such as covering their registration fee for NCSS--and should they not have the ability to speak as one of an increasing number of members supporting these activities through their own memberships?

We can do so with your help, by making Amazon purchases using the WHA portal at no cost to you, by choosing an appropriate membership level when renewing (with such discounts for multi-year memberships!), by considering Life Memberships and asking non-member colleagues to join with and thus support those WHA members who volunteer to serve, develop and sustain vital WHA activities in support of global learning, global citizenship, and global understanding.

Marc Jason Gilbert

Hawaii Pacific University
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Author:Gilbert, Marc Jason
Publication:World History Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2013
Words:988
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