Meaning Over Memory

Recasting the Teaching of Culture and History

By Peter N. Stearns

270 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4485-4
    Published: August 1994
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-1963-7
    Published: August 2016

H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series

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In the midst of the heated battles swirling around American humanities education, Peter Stearns offers a reconsideration not of what we teach but of why and how we teach it. A humanities program, says Stearns, should teach students not just memorized facts but analytical skills that are vital for a critically informed citizenry. He urges the use of innovative research as the basis of such a curriculum, and he offers specific suggestions on translating curriculum goals into courses that can be taught alongside or instead of the more conventional staples.

About the Author

Peter N. Stearns is Heinz Professor of History and dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. His many books include European Society in Upheaval and Jealousy: The Evolution of an Emotion in American History.
For more information about Peter N. Stearns, visit the Author Page.


"A scholarly but accessible and thoughtful contribution to the ongoing debate on alternative futures for humanities education."--Booklist

"Succeeding on a macro-educational scale, Stearns has written a blueprint for the kinds of changes needed in the teaching of history and the humanities. This book demands a wide, national audience; it should be a spark for productive critical debate, and ultimately for reform, at all levels of teaching."--Robert Blackey, coauthor of Revolution and the Revolutionary Ideal

"Peter Stearns offers a thoughtful attempt to find a middle ground between the 'traditionalists' and the 'radicals' in the teaching of the humanities. The book, which embodies both his intellectual range as a scholar and his long experience in the classroom, should especially appeal to the many teachers and parents who share his commitment to sanity and balance in education."--Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, author of Feminism Without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism

"Stearns argues cogently for a new stance that would replace memorization of plot lines and lists of names and events with instruction that teaches students how societies function and change. . . . A significant and provocative argument about a topic of current interest and enduring import."--Choice