History (General)

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Why is it important to study history?

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Douglas Carroll, Ed.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are several good reasons to study history. These include the fact that we learn from people in the past so as not to make the same mistakes in the present or future. Studying the past explains why society is the way it is today and helps us to understand what the future may have in store if we maintain the present course. We study different categories of history as it teaches us how to respond in different situations.

For example, military schools continue to explore the tactics of generals like General Grant and General Lee from the Civil War to teach students lessons from leadership. Students of history learn how great leaders like Abraham Lincoln reacted in times of crisis. History is more than facts and dates. It is the living record of humanity recorded and transcribed in documents, artwork, music, and photographs. All of these and more are reasons the study of history is essential.

There is one reason history is important that supersedes all others. We live in a democratic society unique from other democracies and from other non-democracies. World history is the reminder of the struggles of human beings to find meaning and purpose in their personal lives. American history is the struggle for human beings to find meaning, purpose, and liberty in our own lives. A person cannot possibly appreciate or understand the intricacies or joy of living in a democratic country that does not recognize the historic struggles made on our behalf. World history teaches that nations fail when the teaching of national ideals and vision is not part of the learning of each successive generation.

American history is short in comparison but as rich in lesson. American democracy is a more than two-hundred year experiment that continues to evolve. History is important because, without the experiences, both good and bad, freedom will last only as long as the next generation places a priority on teaching and reteaching the values, ideals, and virtues of democracy.

James Madison wrote:

Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society.

To find the foundation of stability, we look to history.

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Ben Orn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Studying history is beneficial for a number of reasons.

First, the study of history enhances your communication skills. Historians read and write a lot, so these skills are developed through constant practice.

Second, a knowledge of history makes you a better citizen and voter. For example, a person who understands something about previous presidents is better able to have an informed opinion on the current president. Historical knowledge makes you a better voter as you understand contemporary issues better.

Third, learning history develops your analytical skills. Historians sift through evidence to determine why something happened. History teaches you how to evaluate sources.

Fourth, history teaches you about great people who are worthy of emulation. Abraham Lincoln said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.” Studying Lincoln's words and life can help you succeed.

And finally, an understanding of history helps us understand the events described in today's newspaper. It helps us know what news is important and what is trivial.

A knowledge of history is valuable for all of these reasons.

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Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are several reasons why we study history. One important reason is so we can learn from the past to guide us in the present and in the future. Many events in history repeat themselves to some degree. While the places and names may vary, the basic events are similar. If we can learn from past mistakes, we should be able to avoid making those mistakes now and in the future. Conversely, if we learn from what worked in the past, we can use those ideas to some degree now and in the future.

Many of the causes of World War I were also causes of World War II. The growth of nationalism, the desire for land, and the building of military forces were some of the causes of World War I. After World War I ended, a harsh treaty was implemented that would fuel these issues again within fifteen years after the end of World War I. Instead of learning from the events that led to the start of World War I, similar mistakes were made that ultimately led to the start of World War II.

History also helps us understand people and how they operate. For example, there have been many attempts made by nations to limit immigration. If we can understand when and why societies have tried to do this, we can then anticipate when these issues may resurface. For example, when the United States economy has slipped and unemployment has risen, it is not unusual to hear for calls of placing limits on immigration.

History can teach us many things, which is why it is important to study it.

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