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You Teach History at MIT?

10/18/2003 9:00 AM Kresge
Pauline Maier, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of American History;

Description: "There was a time when it took enormous effort to make MIT students comfortable with subjects that had 'not just one right answer'. And so it has become easier to achieve what I think is the real purpose of humanities education at MIT and everywhere, not to train, but to educate."

Herein lies the theme of Pauline Maier on teaching history at MIT. She enjoys the fact that at today's MIT, undergraduates enthusiastically embrace subjects other than electrons and bits. In fact, Maier finds her current crop of students keen, curious and capable of engaging in the spirited discussions about ethics or patriotism she cultivates in her intimate history classes. Maier so trusts her students' ability to wrestle with ideas that she rejects lecture entirely in favor of seminars. Her course on the American Revolution relies heavily on documents _ minutes from the meetings of local resistance groups, broadsides by royalists, first and second drafts of the Declaration of Independence. She also gives students contemporary articles, such as the work in progress on an Iraqi constitution. While we can't escape the perspective of our times, Maier says, we must learn what's distinctive about the past, to gain an appreciation of what is distinctive about the present.

About the Speaker(s): Pauline Maier is a leading scholar of early American history. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1968. Her book publications include From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776 (1972), The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams (1980), and The American People: A History (1986), a textbook for junior-high-school students. In 1997 Maier wrote American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence.--it was on the New York Times Book Review editors "Choice" list of the best 11 books of 1997 was and a finalist in General Nonfiction for the National Book Critics' Circle Award. In 1998 she received MIT's Killian Award, given annually to one senior faculty member for outstanding achievement. In the summer of 2002, the W.W. Norton Company published Inventing America, a new American history college textbook distinguished by its consideration of science and technology within the larger history of the United States. At present she is working on a book about the ratification of the federal Constitution.

Host(s): Alumni Association, Alumni Association

Tape #: T17204.

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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