Saturday, June 5, 2010

Award Winning Blogger Slams the Organization of American Historians

Larry Cebula, the author of the award winning blog Northwest History, will not be renewing his membership in the Organization of American Historians. Here is his letter to OAH president David Hollinger:

Dear David Hollinger:

I will not be renewing my OAH membership. Here is why:

1. The OAH offers no lobbying or leadership in history-related public policy. When the stimulus bill was being created, the OAH and AHA made no efforts that I am aware of to secure funding for history. I blogged about the opportunity (
1, 2, 3, 4) and also contacted your organization and the American Historical Association. I was told by the executive leadership of both organizations that the National Coalition for History does their lobbying for them--but the NCH did nothing either so far as I know. A once-in-two-lifetimes opportunity passed us by due to a lack of leadership from your organization. Now it looks like the Obama administration is about to eliminate the Teaching American History grants, which have pumped almost a billion dollars into history education. I have received no communication from the OAH about this, and there is not a word about it on your new website.

2. The OAH is largely unresponsive to the changing nature of the profession. I sent a long critique of the OAH Draft Strategic Plan and
posted a version of it here on my blog. After the report was finalized I asked what changes had been made in response to member feedback and was told that there was no record of what had been changed. I can't see that anything was changed.

3. The committee that was supposed to issue guidelines for tenuring public historians (3 years ago?) has not completed its work and even the draft report is no longer available. Some of us are going up for tenure and could use the voice of the OAH to convince our more traditional colleagues that our work should count in this process.

I am sorry if this is all too blunt, but I thought it would be better to explain my departure than just to drift away. When I think of the OAH I think of an uneven annual conference and--well, that is it. The conference is the tail that seems to wag the dog. I don't see where the OAH has any voice at all in the digital history world of blogs and news feeds and such, and I don't see where it does any meaningful advocacy for the profession. If I am not going to the conference, I can't see why I would join.



Cebula has some excellent points. I have also wondered why the OAH did not get involved in saving the Teaching American History grant program. What a loss for the study of American history in this country! If it was not for the Journal of American History, I would probably let my membership lapse as well.