I’m of the opinion that history departments need to be more open to the possibility that students may want to pursue career paths outside academia, so I’m pleased to see that this was one of the subjects of discussion at the AHA.
Professors need to avoid discouraging budding public historians, of course, but they should do more than that—they should be actively encouraging them. They should familiarize themselves with the career paths open to non-academic historians and equip themselves to guide interested students along those paths. To assume that all roads originating in higher historical education should end in a tenure-track teaching position is, I submit, irresponsible. Jobs for history majors are scarce enough without mentors closing possible doors before their students can consider walking through them.
If academic historians are looking for ways to bridge the chasm between the ivory tower and the public, they should remember that their classrooms are full of potential public historians.