An early
attraction to the
history of ideas
spurred Dr. Richard
Morris’ interest in
Colonial America
and the American
Revolution. He is
especially captivated
by the political
upheaval of the
late 1700s, because
he believes it
remains the defining
intellectual event
in this country’s
So it should
come as no surprise
that the Lycoming
College professor
of history is writing
a book about the
accounts of Salem,
Mass., during the
American Revolution. Once the 2013
spring semester concludes, the newly-
retired professor will shift his attention
away from the classroom and devote
more time to completing his latest book.
“I have about 140 pages done and
have about that much more to write,” said
Morris, who joined the College’s faculty
in 1976.
For Morris, having the opportunity to
teach history at Lycoming for more than
30 years has been a rewarding experi-
ence. He is especially pleased when he
sees his students performing well.
“Students might find this counterintui-
tive, but faculty members really do want
to give good grades because it is much
easier to grade really good exams or pa-
pers,” Morris said with a chuckle. “I give
my students typed responses at the end of
papers in their writing intensive courses
so they have something substantial to
consider. The history department has al-
ways encouraged students to express their
ideas effectively, especially in writing.”
In the classroom, Morris constantly
stresses that history is a process. He
wants students to understand the pro-
cesses that have driven the human experi-
ence and says that studying history helps
everyone to better understand themselves.
Morris believes that many people do
not know why certain programs emerged
nor do they appreciate the source of the
ideas on which those programs were
based and cited President Franklin D.
Roosevelt’s New Deal as an example.
“Unemployment insurance and social
security were not designed as safety
nets,” Morris said. “They were designed
to keep the economy from bottoming out.
They were part of the whole approach to
economics that the New Deal implement-
ed. We want our students to understand
where ideas, institutions and values come
“One of the things I tell them is that
history as taught in high school is part of
a tribalization ritual where core values are
conveyed to the young. In college, we try
to understand where those values come
from and why they have been adopted.
When we do that, we understand many of
the forces that drive us and many of our
responses to the many social, political
and economic stimuli that we come into
contact with on a regular basis. And that
is how history helps people understand
themselves. We hope students emerge
with a better understanding of why
society developed as it did and how it
Dr. Richard
Professor of history
By Jerry Rashid
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