Full College Scholarships at The American College of History and Legal Studies

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hello and welcome history roundtable my name is Andrea Defusco Sullivan
Im a professor of writing at the american college
of history and legal studies in Salem New Hampshire
and i have the pleasure being joined today by two members of the ACHLS
uh... first of all i'd like to welcome Dean Lawrence Velvel, the dean of the
massachusetts school of law at Andover and founding dean and founding
professor Michael Chesson the d ofean american college of history and legal
studies welcome gentleman
dean velvel if I may start with you
for the members of our audience
who may know just the bit or may be starting to know about the american
college of history and legal studies
what makes ACHLS unique
its one of only two schools in the country
which is a senior college that is to say offers the junior and senior
years but not the freshman sophomore years
secondly it focuses
on history
uh... because we do focus on history
uh... and because we teach strictly by the
discussion method without lecturing
that is a
very different method that is used
virtually anywhere in the country except
in law schools and
even law schools
are not using the discussion method much anymore
at least not as much as they used to be
so uh... all of these things make a ACHLS different
also because we have made a concerted effort just as at MSL itself
to uh... keep the tuition costs down
uh... we are now offering uh... we've decided that like some other schools
have we would offer in this coming year tuition
free education
there are some very famous schools that do that
and we thought that would be a good idea so in this day when people are paying
twenty thirty forty and fifty thousand dollars for college educations
uh... this
makes ACHLS unique also
i suppose that I've forgotten a few other things but that'll do for starters
thank you as
both you gentlemen know
we have of great number of two year community colleges in the massachusetts
new hampshire area
but nothing like as you mentioned a completion college
like the american college of history in legal studies
dr. chesson
what's the advantage in twenty eleven
of an ACHLS degree in history what advantage could it give our students
A degree in history gives every possible advantage
aside from the strong possibility of early admission to the massachusetts
school of law
and saving a year of tuition
and time
history and the
scholarly monographs that I assign and that we all discuss around the table
for eight hours a week
each semester
give students a
range of skills
or strengthen skills they already possess
in argumentation
critical thinking the
give-and-take of debate
expressing themselves clearly and cogently
around the seminar table
and of course the
presentations the oral presentation and papers that you set up in your writing
that i've sat in on
if we can return to
ACHLS's history for a second
i'd like to ask dean velvel
just who
and why how was achls created?
i have to plead guilty
we had been
the law school have been in existence for about eighteen nineteen years
it had a huge
uh... amount of experience and information
about how to offer
rigorous education inexpensively
and by that time we have nearly three thousand graduates
i thought that it would be desirable to bring the same techniques
to bear in the undergraduate world
partly in the hope that uh... if achls were successful it would
be copied by many other schools
and not always in history because there are many subject in which you can
when achls has done
i thought that would be very very important
uh... in this day and age when... tuition is going through the roof and costs are
going through the roof
so we hope we'd be able to create a model that others uh... others could
and uh... as i said we did think that we could
offer for a rigorous inexpensive education and social mobility
that would very important to both the law school and to achls
social mobility to people who
are not so to say in the
upper middle class
maybe not even in the middle middle class and not in the upper class
and uh... we wanted very much to offer them
the kind of rigorous education and i can't stress i've sat in on the
and uh... you couldn't ask for anything better at harvard or yale if you ask me and
i went to one of these fancy pants law schools
so i know what the teaching was like at that these kinds of schools and
the achls teaching is better
so these are the fundamental reasons uh...
uh... why ACHLS got started and history we picked
partly because
uh... i admit it
i'm an aficionado of history
and also because uh... you will not find a historian in my judgment
who does not think accurately again in my judgment
that uh... one of the reasons this country's is so constantly in so much
difficulty is the absolute
lack of knowledge of history
it's also the case that
the legal profession
runs this country to a
great extent very disproportionate to its numbers
and so we setup this arrangement whereby people can go from ACHLS
to the law school
and that's partly in the hope that over the course of thirty forty fifty
people will be coming out of the law school who are well-versed in history
and therefore better versed to be leaders in the country
dean chesson you also
bemoan what dean velvel spoke about as the
perhaps dirty of knowledge of history with
contemporary students
i certainly do
they tend to be majoring in vocational subjects
pre- professional
topics of one sort or another
and i think about the last two books of assigned for the spring semester
michael scheuer's book imperial hubris
about afghanistan and bin laden
he ran the bin laden desk at the CIA
uh... for many years before he retired
and then the former uh...
dean of the kennedy school of harvard university joseph nye
whose book uh... the paradox of american power
both of them talk about uh... the
vital importance of an informed citizen and
that americans need to read more
they need to read more widely and more deeply
and they need a better understanding of what's going on around them in their country
and in the world
very true
and history really
uh... is uh...
the platform on which all of the humanities really stand its the mother of the
humanities... indeed it is
certainly for literature that is true
if i could impose one on one of you gentlemen dr. chesson I'll stick with
you for this
could you describe uh... the junior year curriculum
for a student who lets say would be entering achls in the fall
all students must take
american history one and two
over the course of two semesters
thats eight
per week eight credits of history each semester
and in the fall we begin with
the early colonial era
the first english settlements in north america
some of their imperior rivals form the netherlands, spain france
and we take it up to the civil war
and then resume with the civil war
reconstruction and the recent past in the spring
in addition to that eight credits history course
its linked to your four credit writing course so thats
twelve credits
first semester
but only two courses
and its history and writing intensive
that interplay of those two courses
works very well dean velvel i've sat in on mikes classes
and there is no question in my mind
uh... there hasn't been any question in my mind since about the eight week
that the experience of being in these classes
have caused the student in them to become
different people
they read much better they speak
much better
they are far more thoughtful
they are far more attuned to the fact that there are pros and cons
this is a wonderful education
for any business or profession that they may choose to go into
so i think that the michael chesson has done a wonderful job
if I may continue with you dean velvel
for the folks in our viewing audience who might not be familiar with
the harkness method
that's employed at
schools like exeter uh...
and a lot of the the elite prep schools
could you describe what
the harkness
table is like and how it what might be different from
a lot of other college classrooms well the harkens method discussion teaching
sometimes called socratic teaching in law schools
are very much the same thing
uh... rather than a professor lecturing
the professor will ask a question and then students will address the question
they will argue with each other
they will suggest new questions
uh... and uh... the students learn
from each other
it forces them to read much more closely
it forces them to understand uh... as in west point where the
motto used to be everyman in every class everyday every military man and woman
they will be called upon continuously
they have to prepare
and uh... fundamentally you know in one sense
no lectures all discussion
did you find dr chesson that sometimes
this discussion method
caused students who may have had different political viewpoints
to take it upwith one another a bit and was this a good thing or a or a bad thing
they certainly did
and it was a very good thing and
there was a running argument throughout most of the year about
correct definition of the american middle class
and one student a democrat
aid to a democratic congressman from massachusetts and another student
although a native of massachusetts lives now in new hampshire
both of them in their forties both of them
married with children
and quite divergent political views
and almost every night at the break they'd go across the street to dunkin doughnuts
together for coffee
this would probably be a good moment to tell our audience
what the student body of ACHLS is like say I am a sixty
year old who wants to complete a degree or
uh... twenty one-year-old who
wants to finish up a bachelors that I
discontinued a year ago
would i feel welcome at ACHLS absolutely the
age range in our first year
was students in their forties
and students in their twenties
fresh out of community college
the older ones
had never finished a BA
in one case had
dropped out of their college and was
now looking to finish that BA and to go to law school
but the mix of ages you might say generations a twenty year gap
uh... among the students
gave another kind of edge
of flavor
to the class discussion
some of them were
more experienced been
out there in the world working longer
family responsibilities and commitments
the twenty year olds
had none of that but
they had a lot of energy and a lot of curiosity
frequently found to be true
in the entire twenty three-year history of the law school
the law school has always had people ranging from twenty four twenty five to
the people in their late fifties and sixties
uh... lots of people in their fifties
uh... even more in their forties and uh...
they each learn from each other they're different generations
they're learning from each other
and they're friends thats
one of the remarkable things about it there is no generation gap at
the law school even though every year we have hundreds of
people from
across the age range
so uh... what's
happening here at ACHLS
is replicating what has been happening in the law school for over twenty years
it's very true
that's very true when we speak about student diversity the piece of the
puzzle thats often left out is
including non traditionally aged students i think that that's quite
quite very good
i know dean velvel has spoken about this earlier
but if you could
say Im a young man
fresh out of community college
and im listenting to both of you gentlemen talk about the advantages of achls
convince me young man or young woman
or an older man are an older woman
why a history degree is still
so valuable in twenty eleven
theres the societal standpoint
and theres the individuals standpoint
and i've more or less
touched on both of them from the individual standpoint
the way we teach history at achls
as mike said you'll
learn how to think argue write speak
uh... engage in cross
speak extemporaneously
you will learn all the intellectual traits that
business is looking for
and of course from achls you can go to law school
you can go to other professional schools you can go into business
business you know I read continuously they're not so interested in people with
business degrees
they're interested in people who can think write
speak etcetera etcetera plan
etcetera etcetera so thats from the individual standpoint
uh... from the societal standpoint
as i've said
uh... and and i think virtually every historian agrees... this country gets
into lots and lots of trouble
because it does not know
nor care about its own history
and i hope that uh... over the course of time and particularly because lawyers
are so disproportionately the leaders of the country i'm not saying that good but I am sayign
its a fact
perhaps uh... this will
have a beneficial effect on
the life of this country in the future
you both
participated in
a very successful i was here and i know it was very successful because their
literally was not
room in this room for me
civil war seminar this past spring
this is the
hundred fiftieth anniversary of the civil war so
certainly the topics
that are discussed in your seminars
dr chesson
are valuable today
speak for a minute uh... because i i will be talking about the open house that
this college will be hosting this summer
speak for a moment about the experience of that civil war seminar at as i said it was
a saturday morning
a full saturday morning a half day really
and the attendedance
i thought was remarkable it
exceeded all of my expectation where you as equally gratified by that seminar
i was though not entirely surprised i
I speak in various parts of the country to civil war round tables and other civil war
last week i was down in coastal georgia
talking to a civil war roundtable and i know there is a deep and
abiding and
passionate interest
in our civil war
among americans of all ages and back grounds and
we saw that reflected here in our civil war forum
i think it was april second
there was a range of
individuals here some
children teenagers
young prospective students
their parents
some retired
residents of new hampshire and massachusetts
all walks of life and they sat here riveted
for three hours
and it certainly wasn't because i was lecturing to them or presenting my own point of view
what instead i was trying to do was to throw out some big questions
about the war
causes and motivations
why it was fought the way it was
why one side lost and the other won and
whether that war is still relevant
to us today and if so how and why
and whats its legacy
what should we tell our children
and our grandchildren
and our neighbors about the war
mike did a wonderful job
you know one of the cruder aspects
with regard
to this topic
is a point that's relevant to us today its been relevant to us at least
since the time of korea
grant knew that for america
for the union to win
it would have to be an all out maximum effort
all the time
eisenhower followed that philosophy
in north eastern europe
after d-day he had been urged by montgomery
and by patton to
have certain breakouts which would not be this massive push well
today we are fighting in at least three different countries
and in none of them
are we following
the philosophy that grant established for the united states
that eisenhower took up in europe
you know there is this idea that well we're not good at brushfire
or guerilla warfare because we haven't the taste for it the talent for it
and americans don't want to see their kids bleed away in small
batches continuously
well there the most important military aspect of the civil
war is something that still with us today
and that people are still arguing
i'd never paused
to think about that before thats absolutely true
and and from uh... a layman's perspective coming
uh... not from the perspective of history by vocation or avocation though
certainly i'm getting there thanks to you dr chesson
the cyclical nature of history is
something that
the students note
and i think it was it was edifying to see during that support seminar
both the eighty-year-olds in the audience and the eight-year-olds
for a good four hours didn't move uh... didn't leave during the break
uh... it is i think that history captures the american
imagination in ways that you very eloquently stated dean velvel but
i think that's true for sure
you could feel the emotions
and the passion in the room
and I sense it among my students
we were discussing the book uh... about a month ago
the best war ever
the title is deliberately
and bitterly ironic and its by michael c c adams a
very fine military and social historian
and he argues in his book on world war two
that we won that war
only with
massive applications of force
against nazi germany
and imperial japan
yes thats true wasn't the united states
loathe to get involved in that war be urban legend that i've heard
with that we were more or less pushed into it by the bombing of pearl harbor
its a long long story about roosevelt trying to lead
where the country didn't want to go
and taking steps
i think its fair mike can comment on this
i think it's fair to day taking steps against japan cutting off their oil that
were bound to lead to
a war in the pacific
uh... you me know bottom-line america did not want to fight them but pearl
like fort sumpter
changed everything the country for supter when fort sumter was
attacked the north
views in the north flipped a hundred eighty percent
almost overnight same thing happened with pearl harbor
would you say thats accurate
those two events along with 9/11 are often compared
stephen douglas
after the firing at fort sumter leading democratic politician dependent upon
southern votes for the
nomination that he got in eighteen sixty
the day after the firing on fort sumter he spoke in chicago and he said now there are only
two kinds of people in this country
and traitors
you know i'd imagine there are people in our audience who
like me
had a secondary and a primary education that was very
uh... well
soaked in social studies but no so much
in the history of our own nation
and i bet that there are people who want to learn more about this college
certainly want to learn more about
the free tuition that you mention
uh... via the generosity of you and our board of trustees
how can a student
thats watching us today a perspective student
an aunt and unable a brother or a co-worker
of a prospective student learn more about us
well they can go to our website at www.achls.org
there are frequently asked questions there
there's an introduction to our faculty and staff
there's an academic calendar
there's a detailed and full listing of the curriculum
including the advanced courses taught in the senior year in four different
specialized areas
there's a range of reformation available on our website uh... uh...
and again to repeat the board of trustees very generously decided at their
last meeting
to offer free tuition
to students applying for the fall term for all year
i'm still glad i'm sitting down whenever I hear that
thats such a boon in these economic times its a windfall really
two famous colleges that we're following one is berea
in the appalachians which for i don't know what a hundred years
has offered free tuition
and in fact as i understand it if your family income is over fifty thousand
dollars a year you're not permitted to go there
uh... and the others peter cooper union in new york city which has been doing that
i think since 1858 or 1859
and these are both very famous schools
and uh...
we thought well we could do worse than to follow berea and cooper union
you're in
good company since we are a
completion college
our students
come to us apply to achls
with sixty or or more credits
what else
are we looking for
in a prospective applicant
two point seven grade point average
three letters of recommendation
all transcripts
either from the community college or four year school every academic
institution you've attended
at the college or university level
a personal statement
and if you to come in
to the american college at one stiles road salem new hampshire
schedule an interview beforehand schedule and appointment but an interview
with one of our staff
and an essay
question that you
must answer
its untimed
its on a topic of current interest
this past year it was on the
immigration controversy
the debate over illegal immigrants
over how to deal with the problem
and we expect
answers that
are written not just from the left or
the right point of view
but that take in divergent opinions
different uh... arguments different types of evidence
all expressed in a clean well-organized well-thought-out essay
and if i'm not mistaken dean velvel
lack of reliance on a
standardized test
but instead the essay question the written essay question
is the model that was inaugurated at
the massachusetts school of law is that correct we've never used the
and uh... from the day we opened we have given
uh... and untamed essay test which we create
and most likely by the way
semi-likely an analogous subject
uh... why we've always demanded that every single person
admitted to to the school have an interview
i recently
when people have
lived fifteen hundred and two thousand miles away with let them
do the interview by skype will
the college let them do that michael
well why not if we can take advantage of that
and understand that before we did that
and even now
people have two thousand miles for their interview because they want to go to law school
we had a young lady from the west coast
besides the obvious pleasure of
our company
uh... what other boon would the students
students have by attending are june twenty ninth open house right here at
the college
one stiles road salem new hampshire
its a wednesday evening june twenty ninth
what else can students
who attend our open house do or participate in
just as our end note today they will have a chance to audit
the summer school courses that are being taught
one of them american constitutional history
by professor peter malaguti who teaches at the massachusetts school of law
and the other american economic history
taught by professor dave fagerstrom its
economic history and the history of economic regulation
the government's involvement with the economy
the many economic factors behind our fiscal
so two demanding summer school courses but
the cost of those summer school courses is included in the years tuition
if students want to meet
the deans
our colleges ACHLS
and its creating college MSl
our faculty and our current students please do come to our june twenty ninth open
or really visit us any time thank you so
much gentleman for your time today