Don't know much about history….

And you really won't if you're a student at California State University–Sacramento, where the administration has just voted to allow undergrads to use a course in Anthropology 101 to fill a state-mandated course in American history as a requirement for graduation.

And Anthro 101 at Sacramento State sure isn't a course that has anything to do with American history, or even any kind of history. Or indeed anthropology per se, as traditionally understood: the observation of isolated cultures, the study of human origins, and the acquisition of archaeological methodology and techniques.

Anthropology today is all about good old victimology, the air of the usual grievances by women and ethnic minorities, and LGBT activists.

Some excerpts from an Anthro 101 syllabus–subtitled "Cultural Diversity–at Sac State:

Course Description:*

Anthropology 101offers a critical examination of social diversity andcultural conflict in the contemporary United States. Ethnographic readings, lectures, and film analyze the politics of race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality as configured through the dynamic interplay of history, culture and power.


Course Objectives:


•Demonstrate an understanding of the anthropological approach to the study of cultural diversity.

•Demonstrate an understanding of race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexual orientation as indices of diversity in human society.

•Demonstrate an understanding of the contributions to human society of at least two of the following groups: women, ethnic, religious, socio-economic, gays and lesbians, and persons with disabilities.

•Demonstrate a critical understanding of their own roles as social actors in a culturally diverse society.

Uh, where's the Civil War?

As Sac State history professor Joseph A. Palermo wrote in an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee:

The new introductory “history” course leaves out, among other things, the Progressive Era, World War I, women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, FDR, the New Deal, World War II, McCarthyism, the Cold War, the Korean War, the nuclear arms race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the JFK assassination, Freedom Summer, the United Farm Workers Union, the Vietnam War, Stonewall, Watergate, Second Wave Feminism, the Iranian hostage crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, globalization, the 9/11 attacks, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Swapping an anthropology course for American history will leave our freshmen and sophomores little understanding of how American institutions have changed through time; how events such as World War I and II transmuted those institutions; and how the historical context altered the balance of power between the branches of the federal government and contributed to the rise of the United States as a global superpower.

Furthermore, as Inside Higher Education reported, Palermo, who teaches the basic U.S. history survey course at Sac State, is no conservative ideologue:

But it’s not simply left-right politics or critical theory versus a purer approach, he said, calling himself a fan of Howard Zinn, the late populist historian known for focusing attention on issues of race, class and gender. Rather, Palermo said, it’s a question of thoroughness and abiding by the spirit of the state requirement, which says that students will "acquire knowledge and skills that will help them to comprehend the workings of American democracy and of the society in which they live to enable them to contribute to that society as responsible and constructive citizens."

Palermo was scarcely the only history professor at Sac State to object:

Aaron Cohen, the history chair, agreed that the course failed to satisfy the state requirement and objected to what he described as the university skirting state code. “The law says we have to do it. …It’s been interpreted for 40 or 50 years in a very commonsensical way that students take U.S. history classes, and that’s not too difficult to understand.” Moreover, he said, the university enrolls many students who are immigrants and may not otherwise learn the fundamentals of American history and civic engagement.

And even Anthropology 101 Prof. Terri Castaneda agreed:

"I am not qualified to teach a condensed version of American (or even California Indian) history. Furthermore, trying to add such content onto a [one-semester course] that also continues to teach the critical anthropological theory and perspectives for which it has a proven track record seems unimaginable to me[.]"

So far, however, administrators at Sac State haven't budged an inch. So expect future graduates to know zero about Appomattox–or the Berlin Wall, for that matter. But they'll sure know a lot about "their own role as social actors in a culturally diverse society.