Writing through the Past: Federal Higher Education Policy
Writing history is not the simple act of listing names, dates, and places. For centuries historians have grappled with how to interpret the past, how to understand human lives when the historians themselves were not alive, have no direct experience with the events of the time, and must determine what sources provide what kind of meaning for those people and events. I’ll take this opportunity to survey some key events in the history of federal higher education policy, with my interpretation of those works and discussion of the challenges and opportunities in writing historically about federal policy. Foremost among those challenges is one that historians face in their eﬀorts to re-create the past: presentism. In addition, many who read histories of higher education may not realize that historical study employs a number of conceptual approaches and sub-disciplines, such as political history, cultural history, intellectual history, etc., and I see the choice of sub-discipline as an opportunity. I will address both of those characteristics of historical study, presentism and sub-disciplines, in this chapter.