justification for requiring a history & systems psychology course for majorsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread
How can I convince my psychology department to continue to require our history & systems course for all psychology majors? The curriculum trend may be toward more specific course content (e.g., a course on the attachment process instead of lifespan development) and away from historical, philosophical, and theoretical issues. Please give specific justifications for the history & systems course and particularly the major requirement. Thanks.
-- Paul R. Kleinginna (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 26, 2001
There are many reasons for requiring a history course of psych undergrads that are connected with the goal of "liberal education," some of which have been described by other responders to your question. But my experience -- and I am guessing yours as well -- is that these kinds of arguments don't prove to be very successful with people who are not already dedicated to the idea of liberal education.
On the other hand, having just had a look at your department's web page, I would say that the most compelling reason for keeping the history course on the books is that APA requires of all Ph.D. clinical programs that they provide their students with training in the history of psychology (typically in the form of a course). And according to your dept's webpage, your clinical MA program is "designed to prepare students for work in applied settings upon graduation or to pursue a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. in clinical psychology." Ph.D. programs in clinical typically (I believe) require the history course during the MA year(s), so if your dept. wants its own clinical MA students to be able to move to Ph.D. programs at other schools with maximum ease, it should require a history course of them as well. So, then, why require it of undergrads? Because requiring it of undergrads ensures that it is available on an ongoing basis as well to the clinical MA students who need it. (Such a course is often cross-listed on both the undergrad and grad programs, the grad students attending the same lectures, but being required to do extra, higher-level work.)
Two past presidents of the History Division (26) of the APA -- Alfred Fuchs and Wayne Viney -- recently completed a not-yet-published survey of history of psychology course in U.S. universities. (You should ask them for a copy in order to help build up your "argument arsenal".) I do not want to quote it without their permission, but I am sure they would not mind my telling you that they found that 82% of psychology depts. offering MAs (like yours) offer a history of psychology course to their undergraduates, and that 56% of them *require* it of their undergrads. In other words, taking it off your dept's books might put your dept at a competitive disadvantage compared to other similar universities.
Yahoo! lists two state schools just over in Savanah. There's another school in Swainsboro. Three more in Macon. Another in Augusta. Another in Albany. Still another in Fort Valley. So there's lots of competition right in your area. And then more distant, there's Athens and Atlanta. What do all of their psychology dept's offer and require? You (or someone in you dept) should check before taking history off the requirements list in your dept.
To return to the "liberal education" angle for a moment, I think one can make the argument that historical education, if done right, makes for better scientists and clinicians. Although the literature of the past five years is what is most cited in research reports, a deeper knowledge of how the *whole* research program has gone -- where it has come from, what issues generated it in the first place, and how the questions of have changed over time -- makes for a much more perceptive researcher; not only one who is unlikely to repeat work up blind alleys of the past (though this is no doubt true) but also one who, by knowing more about which branches have already been explored and "pruned", is going to have more insight into what is likely to work experimentally in the future.
One person in your general region you might talk to about these issues is Roger Thomas at U. Georgia.
-- Christopher Green (email@example.com), March 27, 2001.
Hi Paul, for how to present the arguement don't neglect a quick review of Aristotle's Rhetoric which will direct you to consider the personalities that make up the leadership of your department. Then it seems the arguement itself will have to take the form of, Those who don't study history are bound to repeat it. You can elaborate on this theme by looking at B.R. Hergenhahn's analysis in chapter 1 of his An Introduction to the History of Psychology. Also, it just seems common sense a professional would know something about the foundations of their field. But I don't know how far argumentation will carry with a Dean of Science who is faced with a reduced buget. Good Luck, David
-- david clark (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 26, 2001.
From a student's perspective, I would argue that the history & systems couse is justified for 3 main reasons: 1) it provides students with a foundational understanding of the key concepts, issues, and historical figures in their discipline...this is important even on a purely practical level if one is to make a "new" contribution to their area and not repeat past mistakes, past work, etc. 2) students gain somewhat of a historical perspective and the understanding that "objective knowledge" is often tied to prevailing social and political factors, who is doing the "knowing", etc. This is essential for developing critical analysis and to view our knowledge as something that is constantly changing...it's never "the end of history" although it often seems so. 3) finally, and most importantly from my view, a foundations course in history/theory provides an opportunity for all the future members of a community of scholars to come together on a common ground of sorts...abstract divisions between theory, research, and practice can be challenged and the sharing of knowledge (or methods of inquiry) can be beneficial to students who will go on to (often) very narrow specializations.
Certainly there is much more to say on this...
-- Mirisse Foroughe (email@example.com), March 26, 2001.
Justification for a History & Systems requirement 1. knowledge of key contributors to psychology and their theories 2. some sense of continuity and unity in psychology, dispite many perspectives, controversies, and specialties 3. appreciation for contextual effects (historical events, personal experience, temperament, etc.) on the development of theories 4. appreciation for philosophical contribuitions (e.g., aid in critical thinking, as well as knowledge of relevant issues of epistomology, ethics, religious concerns, and degree of self-control) 5. some indication of the future direction of psychology 6. opportunity to learn key concepts that were not covered in the other course that were taken 7.Development of some tolerance fo theories or perspecives that are currently unpopular
I provide students with a list of about 100 key concepts and about 150 controversial issues.
P. S. My department recently voted to keep the history & systems requirement for psychology majors.
-- Paul R. Kleinginna (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 29, 2001.
Some more justifications for history & systems requirement 8. avoid repeating past errors 9. further a liberal arts education with it benefits 10. meeting the APA requirement for Ph.D. clinical psychology programs
-- Paul R. Kleinginna (email@example.com), March 30, 2001.
In chapter 1 of a text I wrote with Brett King "A History of Psychology: Ideas and Context" (Allyn & Bacon, 1998), we attempted to summarize some of the major journal articles that have addressed your question. I particularly like Robert I Watson's point that history helps us overcome "narrow provincial, class, and regional prejudices [and that] psychologists of all people, should seek to avoid subjugation to influences of which one is unaware." History helps us overcome some of our temporal "blind spots" and provides perspective and a basis for integration. I also like Mary Henle's point that our "thought processes are of such a nature that most of us find it difficult to see our own errors and to examine our assumptions." She sees history as a "way of thinking" that gives us distance from ourselves and thus provides a basis for a kind of objectivity that we might not acquire through any other way of knowing.
On more practical issues, my undergraduates often tell me that they believe they performed better on the GRE for having taken our required history course. I don't know for sure if their perception is correct, but my guess is that it is. History, of course, is also important for any student going on to do graduate studies in psychology. History also sharpens library skills. Students who know about such tools as the Psychological Index, the Bibliographical Index, the varieties of directories and biographical sources are much better prepared for scholarly work. I like to open my courses with a brief introduction to historiography (conceived here as a kind of "how to conduct" historical research). Students are typically very appreciative of the resulting improvement in their library skills. History enhances scholarship and provides tools that are not likely to be acquired in any other course.
It is quite a comment that one would be called upon to justify a course in history, but now my deep prejudices are really showing. Best of luck with your efforts.
-- Wayne Viney (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 30, 2001.
Do you have any feedback from past students? In the UK, it's unusual to have a history course at the later levels of undergraduate degrees in psychology. We have one (University of Gloucestershire), though it's not compulsory, and it's very much appreciated by students, who feel they have a more thorough understanding of contemporary psychology because of it. Indeed, evaluation comments have suggested that it should be a compulsory course.
On a more substantive note, a course in the history of psychology, if taught right, is essential to appreciating current issues and debates in psychology. For example, debates about appropriate methodology in psychology are greatly enrichened by understanding how the historical development of methodology was contingent on a range of factors, rather than being the result of the discovery of the "right" way to do psychology research. It's all too common to teach contemporary psychology as a set of known facts, whereas in looking at history we see with the benefit of hindsight that in the past, theories in psychology have been contingent on a range of factors. Having demonstrated this historically, it's much easier to get students to realise that contemporary approaches are themselves contingent, rather than necessarily "true".
-- Dai Jones (email@example.com), June 15, 2002.