The HES annual meeting in 2040
Our Fall 2020 virtual meeting sparked this daydream. We had to innovate this year. How should
we innovate in a future free of CV 19 lockdowns? Here is my reverie:
In twenty years, we’ll see more attention to teaching. Alongside the book exhibit room is an
equally large room for course syllabi, exams, paper topics, and in-class handouts. Some of those
materials are photocopied, others are accessed on computers supplied by the hotel. Videos of several
historians’ classrooms can be downloaded in small booths with headsets. Several librarians who joined
HES offer suggestions for free internet resources. This room attracts as many people as the book
An HES President well known as an outstanding teacher convinced the Board in 2032 that
reading a conference paper line by line, page by page, for 15 minutes is a form of malpractice. The
membership knows the new rule: talk with, not at, the audience, who are asked to raise their hands in
protest if a speaker ignores the rule. As a model, the Presidents post their address by early October,
and their former lecture on late Saturday afternoon is now a Q and A session, with 15 minutes on the
paper, 15 minutes of how to teach the material in the paper, and 15 minutes for the President’s
thoughts on the future of HES.
Looking at the dozens of sessions, an old-timer from 2020 will see many new options. At
9am, he could join the workshop debating the Wikipedia-style online edits to the third edition of a
history of higher education (E-books are now routinely enhanced by peer-reviewed corrections and
additions). Down the hall he could listen to four historians debate the proposition that historians
of education are morally obligated to address contemporary educational policy issues. The format of
the debate is ancient—first affirmative presents the case, which first negative challenges; second
affirmative presents the plan, which second negative questions; then cross-exam questions and final
summations—but it had never been done at HES when Old Codger was the Treasurer. Upstairs he’ll find
six historians and two editors around a table—they signed up to critique an assistant professor’s book
proposal. Downstairs the graduate students are running a session where a statistics professor, via
Zoom, coaches them as they apply a new methodology to reanalyze Project Talent data from 1960.
The 10:15 coffee break lasts 30 minutes. Why so long? HES is in excellent financial shape
thanks to the generous bequests in the wills of three former officers, so there is food along with coffee,
tea, bottled water, CBD pills, THC oil, and several drugs to enhance concentration and memory.
Furthermore, HES now offers yoga classes during the morning and afternoon breaks.
And some things never changed in the 20 years after 2020. Created in 2016, the affinity groups
endured. One on one mentoring sessions at breakfast continue. The business meeting remains on the
program even though the reports were online two weeks earlier. As always, it is an hour of celebration,
with applause for each colleague who helped the Society in the past year. The heart of HES remains the
unselfish willingness to donate time and energy for the good of the field.
RLH/August 11, 2020