What's the point of studying the past? I need both arguments for and against.  

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As I see it, there are three main reasons for studying the past.

First, when we study our own country’s past, we learn more about who we are.  We learn about our shared heritage.  That can help create a sense of solidarity as citizens of our country.

Second, when we study the past, we learn more about how other people have lived.  As human beings, we only get (so far as we know) one life on earth.  We only gain one set of experiences.  By studying history, we can experience others’ lives to some degree.  We can try to understand what it was like to be different people in different times and places.

Finally, we can say that we should study history so that we can learn from it.  The famous saying argues that people who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it.  This implies that, by studying the past, we can learn from the mistakes made by people in other times and places so we do not have to make those mistakes ourselves.

Of course, people can argue that there is no point to studying the past.  The main argument for this point of view is that the past is irrelevant.  The situations that arose in the past are not really the same as those we encounter today so they cannot teach us anything.  If the past cannot teach us anything, the only reason to study it is for fun.  If we do not think that it is fun, there is no reason to study it.

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