Historical education is the cornerstone of how society operates, understands and tolerates. I would go as far as saying that history should be a mandatory subject, beginning at primary school and continuing right through to the end of high school.
Ever have those conversations where you are talking to someone about a subject and they are arguing a point without taking any history of the matter into context? Yes, there are a few of those people (eye roll). I’m definitely not saying that you need to know everything but I do think that having a basic understanding on major historical events is good tool to understanding society.
The importance of studying history cannot be underplayed. Educating people about the past, makes them understand the present and will lead to a huge impact for the future. The more we educate the younger generations on the events of the past the greater chance we have that mistakes made won’t be repeated and lessons will be learnt. At least that’s the hope.
I say this because as a history student both in my high school years and in university, the trials and tribulations of past societies and cultures have left some food for thought throughout my daily life. Now, I’m not saying by any means that I know everything, because I definitely do not. But I have a grasp about certain aspects of how society operates due to the influence of historical events. And if I don’t know something I simply go look it up (not on Wikipedia).
When talking to people whether its about politics, religion or day to day matters I’ve realized that there is a lot of ignorance out there that could have been nipped in the bud with a little historical education back in their schooling years. For instance talking about religion can open a whole can of worms- it practically always does, but when you are talking to someone about religion and they have a historical understanding of it, the conversation is very different than talking to someone who basically goes off “blind faith” and what is taught to them in a church or through the news. Don’t get me wrong I’m not discrediting religion, but it is good to know the history of your faith and that of other faiths before entering a conversation about it.
Take the whole thing about Islam and the acts of terrorism by certain extremists that claim to be Islamist, I’ve heard people say this is a relatively new thing but if you go back in history all you have to do is look at the Crusades of the 11th century which continued until well into the late 13th century to understand that there has always been a rift between religions and violence has always played a huge part. It’s just now the warfare has become worse due to technological developments. I had a woman on the train once spewing hate speech against the Muslim community, claiming they were the only religion that promoted violence and so on. I pulled her aside and asked her if she’d heard about the Crusades? She had not. Clearly she had not idea what the Christians had been up to in the 11th century.
I know that history can be a boring subject for some ( yes, yes, yawn fest- I get it), but understanding the past ultimately leads to a better understanding of the future. It breeds understanding of why the world is the way it is, why there are some cultures that are the way they are and why certain laws have been passed etc. You may not accept or like the way these societies and peoples operate and it may be that they are in the wrong, but you have a general overview of why that is.
In 1998 the American Historical Association published an article by Peter. N. Stearns, which sums up what my point is perfectly:
“The past causes the present, and so the future. Any time we try to know why something happened—whether a shift in political party dominance in the American Congress, a major change in the teenage suicide rate, or a war in the Balkans or the Middle East—we have to look for factors that took shape earlier. Sometimes fairly recent history will suffice to explain a major development, but often we need to look further back to identify the causes of change. Only through studying history can we grasp how things change; only through history can we begin to comprehend the factors that cause change; and only through history can we understand what elements of an institution or a society persist despite change.”
An education in history creates awareness and most importantly understanding. Now, when I say this I don’t mean we will tolerate things like terrorism or other atrocities- no one ever will. I mean that we recognise the struggles of people and their disposition in society and have an awareness of their behaviours and customs whether we accept them or not.
Educating the young in our history of key points in our global timeframe – even if it’s very basic and not an in depth study, may lead to future leaders, teachers and parents having a greater grasp of the world and why certain things are the way they are.
Like Shirley Bassey sang “it’s all just a little bit of history repeating”. And if that’s the case then what can we do to fix it if it needs to be fixed.