On April 10, the Academy Board returned American history to its core curriculum for a select group of cadets starting in the fall semester.

The board brought back the course, previously part of the core curriculum from 1962 to 1987, amid concerns Air Force Academy graduates did not have a deep enough historical understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the nation they are pledged to serve.

For several years, the department of history surveyed cadets to determine if they were part of a nationwide downward trend in knowledge of American history among post-secondary school students. Not surprisingly, perhaps, they found a substantial number of cadets deficient in areas of basic U.S. history - understanding the founding principles of the United States (most important the historical context of the Constitution); the development of American ideas regarding democracy; the struggles for racial, minority and gender equality; and the place of the U.S. in the world. In addition, data suggest a general decline in the knowledge of the discipline across the four years of the academy's academic program.

The new test course, History 200Z, consists of a one-semester examination of our nation's history from its colonial origins to the present. Surveying the broad landscape of America's past, the course will explore the people and institutions that have helped shape American political, intellectual, social and economic change over time. History 200Z will pay special attention to those issues involving racial and ethnic minorities, gender equality and constitutional freedoms in the development of American identities. It will also strengthen other courses in political science, economics, geography, and law in the core curriculum. Tied directly to the outcomes of Respect for Human Dignity; Civic and Cultural Competency; and strongly related to our commitment to diversity and inclusivity, this course will help selected cadets arrive at a clearer and more meaningful understanding of our nation's past and their responsibility as citizen-airmen in a free, complex and changing society.

To avoid expanding the already large core curriculum in the short term, History 200Z is targeted to 150 cadets who demonstrate deficient knowledge of American history and have an opening in their academic schedule.

The dean of the faculty will simultaneously undertake a longitudinal study to evaluate the course's efficacy, benefits and costs with regard to the entire core curriculum. Apart from the selected group of cadets enrolled, we will also offer the course as an option to others who desire more exposure to our nation's rich heritage.


Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould is the superintendent of the Air Force Academy.