Why is the study of history important?
With many of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act focusing on reading and math skills leading to a "teach to the test" mentality, history has been getting short shrift in schools these days. Already, in the past few decades, the study of history has been shuffled into the shelter of social studies making it now one of a myriad of social sciences studied in one small period each day. In my state, public school social studies classes often have upwards of 40 students/class which makes learning very difficult. The study of history does not seem to hold a place of importance any more.
This is sad to me because I see the study of history as very important in creating knowledgeable and engaged citizens for our nation. By teaching us to analyze the social, political, and economic threads of the past, the study of history gives us the skills to analyze those threads in the present.
42 Answers | Add Yours
I definitely agree with the above post that the study of history enables us to analyze the present better. The study of history is also important because we learn from the mistakes of the past and hopefully learn to avoid those same mistakes made in the past. By studying our ancestors, we see the mistakes that were made and learn how to avoid those mistakes. By learning from the mistakes that have been made by others, we are able to avoid the same mistakes and make more progress in economics, government, technology, etc.
There's no way to understand where you can or should go unless you know where you've been. How could students ever completely "get" why the world around them is the way it is unless they're taught the steps it took to get here. I don't teach a single novel without a historical background; in fact, I rarely teach the kids anything about anything without a historical background. Even my football players know why we run the offense we run. Past is just as important and present.
If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always had.
I LOVE history--you can't teach literature without it, and vice versa. The literature tells the story of the history since most writing is an outcry of what is going on in the current events. History and literature are paramount to a well-rounded individual and an education that is relevant now and always.
Ditto everything already said! I just don't understand how history has been so maligned over the past several decades. The idea that we need to cater to somehow cram all of this stuff under the heading "social studies" came from somewhere, and I'd like to know where. "History" deserves to be taught, and not just a history of all those other nations that are now perceived to be better than our own.
US History is important, as is western European, eastern Asian...history of the world is critical for everyone to understand what's going on in the world today. How can someone understand the mess in the Middle East if they don't understand Middle Eastern history? I took one of the best and most difficult courses in college - History of the Middle East - and considering that so many problems are still happening in that neck of the woods, everyone should have to have some understanding of how it's gotten to this point.
Even though I teach American Literature and British Literature, my students still get introductions to the historical happenings in every literary period we read. Otherwise, how are they going to understand what prompted someone like Jane Austen to write "Pride and Prejudice"? How on earth is "Huck Finn" going to make sense if we don't study 19th century American history?
Great topic, and sorry if I ranted too much on it! :)
Teaching history is very, very important! We must know history in order to understand the present and past. This is key! What frustrates me so much about the "younger" generation is that they hardly know ANYTHING about history and they do not keep up with current events, which to me, is a complete tragedy. I also teach literature and it is so important to know the historical context of what I'm teaching...the students need to know it, too.
I am glad that others see history as important. How can we get the powers that be in education to see its importance and give enough time and resources to it in the classroom.
For me, there's no question of whether history should be taught. It must be taught. Think of all the novels that we've answered questions about: The Giver, Brave New World, Farenheit 451, etc. Without the knowledge of what came before us, we're susceptible to letting ourselves become just like the sheep, I mean people, in these books. History is life.
In response to #7, I think the answer to making its importance more clear is to encourage interdisciplinary courses. We just re-introduced an American Studies class in our school, which is helping to show the connections that must be made to American history when studying American literature. However, more curriculum needs to be created to tie all the courses together. Teaching science should include how history has changed science. Teaching math could also easily incorporate history, to demonstrate to the students that all subjects are influenced by world events.
Well I always tell my students at the beginning of the year, history is "our story" of our past, we must be able to interpret that and understand that so we move on in the future. We study history so we can understand the world around us, and make wise decisions based on what we have learned from the past. If the school system cut out social studies, how would our kids learn how to cooperate with other cultures, how would they learn how to understand cause and effect, one of the biggest themes in a history class. History is not about memorizing facts and knowing everything on a timeline, its about anaylzing people and societies, and intepreting the decisions that were made so that we can understand the big events of our time. We must learn from the past and understand the world so we can live in it properly!
The difficulty about studying history is that we may be able to get at the basic facts of what happened (it's more difficult than it may appear), but it is almost impossible to understand the motives of the various individuals involved in what happening; at best we can make an effort to understand them, but this always comes with a "point of view." For example, we teach the development of the Consitution, but we never have time to student the working of the Convention which are extremely interesting and shed a great deal of light on some of the decisions they made. Eg. I have students who think the Electoral College should be abolished; when I ask them what problem it was invented to solve, almost none of them know. Most of them think it was the great evil that kept Al Gore from becoming President in 2000. They know nothing about the other times it has been used in our history, what problems it may have saved/caused, etc.
This is not to say that we should not teach history, just to remind us that it is an extremely difficult task. I feel that we should be teaching the major concepts of American history rather than the multitude of facts that we expect students to memorize. And then what do we do about "World" history???
If we don't do something, we will wind up with the world of "1984" where the government (media, television, internet, whatever) tells people what the past was ... and infinitely malleable "story" that can be used to justify what is going on in the present. This is the greatest danger as I see it.
Perhaps others will have some comments on this ...
History, if properly taught, is the most exciting of subjects. It should answer the question of "why we are where we are," and if done further back in time, "why they were where they were." As a few commentators have already stated, that analytical process encourages reasoning and will lead to the ability to discern "why we are where we are going."
The teaching of the subject has sadly been reduced in many instances to the recitation of dates and events. No wonder kids hate it. The way to keep them on the edge of their seats is to show them the conflicts people contended with in the past, and how they came to resolve them -- or if they resolved them. This leads to the appreciation of how little really changes, and insights into how people work -- maybe the names and places change, but the conflicts remain the same. A few years ago, there wasn't a teenager I'd known that hadn't seen "Saving Private Ryan." The reason is because not only did it show conflict, it embodied that timeworn but applicable phrase of "history coming alive," watching kids their own age from another generation, perhaps even their own great grandfathers, living through the experience of the Normandy Landings.
More and more kids get their history from the media, and not through school. Why is it reduced to a bunch of dates on a timeline, devoid of the conflict or human experience that historical figures lived? It's not entirely the lack of facts; it's more the lack of agreement of facts; although the term "politically correct" is thankfully fading, it still pervades peoples' ability to express opinion; no one wants to cause offense when its discovered that the facts I see aren't the ones you do. We don't teach the history of conflict, because we seek to destroy conflict among ourselves. Consider something never taught in high school history - here's an excerpt from Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address:
Fondly do we hope--fervently
do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.
Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by
the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil
shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash
shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said
three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The
judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
Mentioning "Lord" and "God" and "prayer" in a public school? Execration of slavery and denunciation of the South? Affirming the North shall draw blood from the South to punish it for its "peculiar institution?"
This may ruffle a few feathers, particularly if you're from Texas. That state, along with California, comprise the largest market for school textbooks in the country. And here we get to the crux of the problem -- If you're a publisher interested in maximizing history textbook sales, to whom do you tailor your contents? Which facts to you present, or more sadly and accurately, omit? To appeal to the majority, it must necessarily be devoid of conflict, so no one gets offended.
Throw the textbook out. Teachers should just pick primary sources and discuss with students. Who cares if you don't cover it all? That's not what's important; teaching kids to think is. If we've done our job correctly, whatever's missing they'll fill in on their own, if only out of a sense of curiosity. When students are no longer force-fed a bland puree of dates and time-lines devoid of conflict, their processes of analysis, reason, and argument will be sharpened. What better gifts to impart? We've got to get back to presenting arguments and debating issues, not only historical ones, but supremely importantly, current day ones. That alone is the most important reason for the correct study of history. At worst, we can at least re-learn to be able to agree to disagree.
The single most important aspect of studying history is that it suggests to humanity it is only through understanding the past that humanity has the chance to survive. Under the most dire of circumstances there are some people who believe that if we do not recognize our shortcomings, prejudices, ignorance and arrogance we will ultimately cease to exist. Hence, the single most important reason for all humans to study history. It can be argued that history in the United States has 'fallen out of favor' in the recent past to compensate other subjects. I cannot help but wonder the consequences. ( For anyone interested I created a topic in the American History teachers group that addresses this topic )
Completely agree with all of these posts, but I must admit that I find myself "teaching" history as part of literature in terms of ensuring that students have a thorough understanding of the context of the novels and poems we examine. For example, A Tale of Two Cities gives an excellent opportunity to look at the French Revolution. So I must admit to having to sneak it in in my classes!
History is extremely important, until recently there has been a viscious view on History in my school as a" stick" fighting subject - meaning that one can not use it for anything. It has taken me some time to convey the message across to both parents and students the importance of History in the modern world.
There is a pre-conceived idea that History is simple recalling facts and timelines which is evidently wrong. I explain to students and mis-informed parents about the advantages and pros of taking the subject. I wont go into detail as Im about to teach a class but the bottom line is that there is certainly an attitude that is ill-informed and mis-placed that needs to be rectified.
The study is history is important for many reasons, but I will offer two post-modern answers that are often overlooked. First, we must not take a person's understanding of history as a fact. All understanding of history is interpreted, that is to say, all history is from the perspective and understanding of the author. This means that all history is selective and usually from the perspective of those in power. Second, for this reason, we need to study history from as many perspectives as possible, especially from the perspective of those without power. When we do this, we will be able to use history to create a more humane society, or at least this is a hope.
"Those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it."
I dont remember who made the quote, sorry.
I want to distinguish learning "the fact" and learning "the message" from history. Learning the fact is mean that we get to know what happened in the past and how is this past memory/event affected the way we are living now. For example, we notice that Alexander Flemming invented Penicillin in 1928. This is a fact, where this is a crucial invention that became a momentum for reflecting on how many people have been cure by this medication from that period until recently. Learning the message of history is more about learning about how we reflect to an event, about good and bad, and try to understand why people at that time act/did that things. For example, we know that in World War II, Japanese soldiers had caused many sadness situation in Asia-Pacific countries. But, because this is a fact that already past, in the history we are not learning about judging who is guilty and who is right. We are not learning to hate the Japanese because of the sadness those soldiers in the past caused. What we can learn here is about the moral issue, about the social value lost because of the war, and how we are right now have to be able to leave more peaceful and harmony. How conflict between country and people have to be solve more based on logic not based on emotion that can cause war.
I agree with the post above. History is meant not merely to learn facts but to "analyze" and "understand".Here i mean it in terms of learning from the past, and not repeating the mistakes which made us suffer.For example,the explosion of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.This dreadful event had caused great loss of life and destruction.Today,measures are being taken so that such events do not reoccur and we can live along with peace.
"If you do not learn from history, You will have to relive history." Cicero
Many thing can and have been learned from history, but I believe the greatest leasson are those we should not prpeat. The greatest problem with the study of history today is that it is little more than regurgitating information to pass a class. Professors today seem to be more interested in making carbon copies of themselves. History should be a study of the facts untainted, from primary and secondary sources. Student should be taught to distinguish bias and irregulaities. Unfortunatly what we get at many universities are professors peddling thier books and many of them are regurgitated from some other professor, sited proper of course.
The true study of history can and has granted us the ability to learn from others mistakes. Distorted history distines us to repeat mistakes of the past.
In order to learn our past mistakes and prevent them from happening in the future.
All of these answers are so true. History's importance isn't stressed enough! To many students it's just the memorization of names, dates, places, events, etc...but the understanding and appreciation of why and how, and most of all the effects of it all is what is so important. You have to know where you came from and the journey to the present to understand where you are now and where you might be in the future. History is integral in understanding what citizenship means and how our government is run. To have productive citizens that actually participate (i.e. VOTE!) in our democracy is extremely important. I think teaching history is a tool to make this possible.
One does need to study history to know his or her identity. Identity is part of one's self and everyone is part of history.
STUDY OF PAST,THEIR LIFE,WAY OF LIVING,ART AND ARCHITECTURE,MONUMENTS INSCRIPTION,FOOD THEY ATE,TRANSPORTATION
History is important but it is considered "black".
So we can get to know about the early peopl that were here because they are importaqnt
to have general knowledge of the past
because if you dont no the stuff that happended for you you would just be aware of things in your life you would never know who made the computers or anything like that.
importance of studying history:
*to understand everything about your country
*to be an informed citizen
*to learn appreciate things with connect to the past
*to understand the present
OUR PAST IS OUR HERITAGE.
WE GET TO UNDERSTAND THE WAY OF LIVING OF PAST.
THE CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS OF OUR ANCESTORS.
I am student myself and history is my favourite subject. I think history is important to study because it is our past. Man learns from his faults. When we read about an event, its consequences, its results, we learn. We understand the difference between right and wrong.
The study of history is important because, unless we know about our past, and about our heritage, we won't be able to be able to deal with problems in the present or make plans for the future. As human beings, we need to have a degree of continuity between what we do and what has been done in the past. Because history is so intimately connected with culture, it affects every aspect of our lives. Through history we also learn about other societies and what people from the past have had to say. G.K. Chesterton called it "the democracy of the dead," because, through history, people who lived a long time ago and far away from us can have a say in the decisions we make in modern times.
Teaching History to the Secondary School students is most important. Every student must know the historical events, stories, personalities, in order to get awareness on the culture, attitude of the people, achievements, monuments, historical personalities, their governance, etc. If one should not get awareness on the Maharashtra King Shivaji, it would be a loss to the pupils to know about the bravery and the establishment of a competent and progressive civil rule with the help of a well-regulated and disciplined military and well-structured administrative organizations.Not only this, the historic developments, events that took place in the good olden days must be taught to the students. This will result in getting good awareness, development of personality, attutude, aptitude, and culture among the students.
This topic is very great, thank you very much for this good effort.
I have benefited a lot from it.
I wish everyone to benefit from this excellent topic.
Thank you again....
If I could take a class as interesting as #12 describes his or her class I would vote for more history classes. I agree that civics, government and current event classes are nice to have. Students are bombarded these days with a bunch of required courses. Our country is way behind in the sciences and math, but we continue to have history and literature teachers fighting to keep their job. Can you get a solid paying job from studying history or studying literature for that matter? Students today need skills. I think the skills the writer in #12 is talking about are vital. Even teaching literature is not vital these days, but students need to write, research and communicate in our world. You are a much better person and much more intelligent from studying history and literature, but today I would much rather get a high paying job. Do we study history, so we don't make the same mistakes again? Seems to me that generation after generation continue to make similar mistakes, but often not recognizable by the different era. Maybe we can revitalize education. Let's teach history and literature within the skills of the real world and real life skills that get our students into the workforce with a quality job. Literature teachers and history teachers think outside the box. Talk to your principals and educational board about revitalizing literature and history, so students can still keep up in science, math and real life skills as well as be educated human beings.
It both helps to develop thinking skills and gives meaningful material/knowledge with which to think.
I like posts 1 and 4 above.
In my opinion the study in history is important because we learn about significant people in the past who made our life better now.Also its good to know something more for the ancient culture,civilization,ways of thinking etc.How did the world become like it is today we can only find out by learning history and exploring all those territory battles,the world wars, colonies.....
Becauseif we didn't we will never learn about what people did in the past and the things that they did.
History is the most important subject in school. We must learn from the past. Unfortunately, history does repeat itself.
Students and teachers who study history help us. It is amazing everything in my life is now history. June 25, 1996 (bombing of the Khobar Towers) ,September 11, 2001 (the World Trade Towers fell), Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans August 28,2005. Even the race riots in Detroit race riots of 1967, I was there.
I was just a kid during the race riots. We turned off lights at night and waved at the Army. They patroled the Detroit streets. Was that the beginning of the end for Detroit?
Hurricane Katrina was interesting. NOA predicted she would hit dead center in Boca Raton. We never lost power during her attack on Southeast Florida. My sister headed down to Homestead to provide medical assistance. I stayed north and picked up the pieces. Hurricanes are very powerful. I don't believe we have much control over them.
Back to the point, we all have memories of events. It is important we preserve and share them.
We can define future by means of studying history. That is why it is important.
It is to give you the background of the world you live in.
As it provides a brief about your ancestors...
i think without history no can judge his present or no one can make a plan for future.regarded history we can easliy see mistakes of ancestor ....or we would have new ideas about literature in our minds,history is good we have been history as a source of knowledge, its not only about past it shown u a new path, a new thought, through which u will make ur future better and better. i love history it's difficult little bit but if u would take intrest u will go further and further.and one thing u can not do any thing without history and especially history of english literature .literature us reflection of life so life also reflected throught history we can not neglect it so easily :)
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes