Those Who Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It

As this year of high school education wraps itself up students across the nation are cramming, or have just crammed their head full of dates and facts about men and women long dead, whose actions can be seen to have only a minimal effect of the current world. They are learning and relearning the acts and ends of each ruler; Adams passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, thereby discrediting him as a bipartisan politician, Caesar declared himself dictator and was assassinated by the senate. Yet, in the back of some minds a light tinge of discontent taints the studies. Who really cares if Adams restricted the rights of Democratic-Republicans two hundred years ago when the Patriot Act shatters the rights of thousands of Americans, regardless of their political association? Why aren’t we learning about what is happening right NOW?

As the few students who actually care enough about their education to wonder about the validity of the school curriculum grumble to themselves, one would hope a similar noise is issuing from the mouths of hundreds of civics and economics teachers across the United States. Why do we learn and teach in detail about the history of the world hundreds of years ago and yet neglect the contemporary state of international affairs?

Ask 10 American History students what the current government of Vietnam is and they will doubtlessly say it is Communist, yet what they will fail to understand is the contemporary concept of what that means. Gone are the rigid economic regulations, and state ownership of all industry; Vietnam now has one of the fastest growing privately driven economies in the world, and it has gained permanent membership of the World Trade Organization as of 2007. Our ignorance of the state of our world as it is in the present is astounding and dismally pervasive.

A better use of our students’ time would surely be an education focused on the now rather than the then. I am not, however, proposing throwing history out of the curriculum completely; I would not fall prey to that well-known adage “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” Rather, it is my opinion that history should be integrated into contemporary political, theological, and economic studies. History provides the greatest and most reliable examples of political and economic theory, and every religion has a respect for its roots, yet studying history for itself without applying it to the world as it is now seems to me to be missing the tank for its tracks.

Not to be misunderstood, I have a great respect for Historians as sages of human folly and success, yet I also have even greater respect for the brilliant men and women of the world who are in the fray, dealing with the problems as they arise right now. Those who choose should certainly be able to take in-depth history classes, but as an elective rather than as a core piece of the high school curriculum. Peter the Great’s fetish for tall soldiers hardly seems to me as important for the future of our generation as the current political dynamics of Africa, but perhaps that is only my personal bias.

The extreme gap in understanding in youth of the basic state of the world and how it operates is detrimental to every aspect of this democratic nation. Without an understanding of the background of current affairs the mass populace cannot make good decisions for themselves about who would best represent their interests, because very few truly understand what their best interest is. There is undoubtedly a fear among those in power that a change in curriculum would give a previously unheard of influence to educators, because suddenly they would be given not only the option but the responsibility of educating every single student in the United States about how the world works, and the power structure as it is operates on ignorance. Now, however, is the time for change, our politicians have failed us, perhaps it is the time to grant the people, the students, access to the knowledge that truly matters, the knowledge of the world as it is, so that we may push onwards towards a benevolent vision of how it will be, rather than lingering on how it once was.

I say the time is now, I say get educated, I say that those who have the privilege to do so must take a look at what they are teaching the youth, and think long and hard about what is truly valuable. I say once again, the time for now is now.

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~ by twist9 on May 27, 2008.

2 Responses to “Those Who Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It”

  1. Here here! I certainly concur, sir. (teehee, that rhymed….yes, that does actually amuse me. I am actually that pathetic. Get over it)
    A much needed insightful examination of yet another flaw of our archaic and misfocused education system today. Even with the misspellings. :)

  2. The good thing about our history classes is that they are for the most part brutally honest and disheartening instead of being used as a means of building nationalism. That’s a step in the right direction! But that’s besides the point. I definetly agree with your argument..today’s basic education system leaves too much room for ignorance of the here and now. That’s why I love bbc:) You can tell it’s so specifically designed to give people more power. Good work emmettias!

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