Bare Necessities: History

>> Sunday, September 6, 2009

I mentioned two of the big ones for education, math and English (or language), both of which are often dismissed as overrated. And, yes, that still blows my mind. Another one that often gets treated with contempt is history.

History is absolutely fascinating to me. It's all about what came before. Problems that were faced with fortitude or caused by callousness. The shortsightedness, the farsightedness. The discoveries, the failures, the whimsical tides of fate that made someone successful or destroyed. It is absolutely mesmerizing for me. Equally interesting are the differences and holes in history as victors slanted the documentation or aspects are explained only with the scantest available information.

But why do we need it?

Because history contains a wealth of information about where we are today, how we came to be. It's so easy for people to get complacent that they built where they are, that they are deserving of all they have going for them, but truth is it's the luck of the draw. What language you speak, what freedoms you enjoy, what education you have available, what resources, what headstart - those are all products of those that came before. And you can't really appreciate those blessings, those boons unless you understand the blood and pain that paid for them. That goes for the pieces that aren't so good, perhaps the repressions or limitations, the hardships and challenges, those are part and parcel of history, too, and--and this is the kicker--learning from history is the best way to make your future better.

Because no one has time in their lives to make all the mistakes we've made in the past. Learning from those mistakes is the best way to move forward. Unfortunately, many places in the world (if not all of them) are notoriously bad at repeating the failures or slipping into the same destructive cycles of the past. People who don't know history have little choice but to repeat it, never understanding what they could do to keep from wandering into mishap or failure.

Knowing, of course, doesn't mean that you automatically preclude repeating it. But you have a chance of moving forward and making all new mistakes if you know where you've been, how you got there and where you're headed.

Is history important? Damn straight.


  • Roy

    As a former History major, I have to agree 100% with this post. Besides all the good stuff about learning from History so we don't make the same mistakes over and over again, it's just fun to read about!

  • Jeff King

    i like to know where thing and ideas come from. That is way i like it.

    Plus to really care where you are going you must know where you have been...

  • Project Savior

    Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, so you learn it one way or another.

    Just kidding, I preferred reading about the Great Depression over living through its sequel.

  • Shakespeare

    If you love history, you might pick up LIES MY TEACHER TAUGHT ME. It goes through ways U.S. history books whitewash U.S. history, from Columbus to the present. VERY interesting stuff.

    Then again, you are well read enough you probably know quite a bit of what the author brings up already. I still found a lot of stuff I didn't know, and it's a fascinating book.

    I can send it back to you when I send back the rest of Fruits Basket. I mowed through those in a day (yummy!).

  • Bob Johnson

    I hated history in High School , the older I get the more I appreciate all it has to show us, my trip to China was an eyeopener, not only it's ancient history but the history between 1949 and now, fascinating stuff, wish I would have paid, no skipped less of my history classes back then.

  • flit

    I hated it in high school ...but really enjoy it at the uni level .... more a matter of how it`s taught than what is taught, I think

  • Stephanie B

    Good teachers can make or break any subject, admittedly. Most American history books make wonderful sleep aids; I often can't last but a couple of paragraphs and I LOVE history.

    But part of the reason I'm writing this series is to highlight WHY these subjects are important because, if you understand why you'll need it in later life, it can change how open you are to a subject.

    Or so I think.

  • The Mother

    Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

    True, but I'm not sure remembering stops anyone from repeating it.

    I really push history to the kids--although I have to admit I'm lax on dates. Concepts are the key.

  • Stephanie B

    Agreed. And societies have learned; unfortunately, that is the exception and not the rule.

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