Why Study History
Obviously as a history teacher I am of the opinion that learning history is important. The amount of use that one can gain from the people in the past is quite important to the development of the future in my opinion, and contrary to popular opinion it actually amazes me how this knowledge guides my actions on a day to day basis. This question has been answered in a multitude of ways by numerous scholars that I will provide links for below but I would like to add my own interpretation before doing so. To me there are two reasons that aren’t often talked about that are the quintessential reasons to study history.
1) Our race is technologically and socially where it is because of developments in the past. In fact, every class is a history class of sorts because you are learning from the experiences of others. For this reason, the learning of history is a means to create a better world for the future. As a father this is a very important concept to me because I would like to leave a better world for my daughter than I inherited. Without the knowledge we give to our youths we would still be living in the stone age and with it we have reached unthinkable heights as a species.
2) I am often confronted with the question of why students need to learn history when it is constantly at their fingertips due to access with the internet. In my opinion this actually makes it MORE important to learn history because of the sheer volume of misinformation that is placed on the internet. Students have to have a basis of knowledge and an understanding of real historical research moving forward or they may fall victim to those that would like to manipulate history for propaganda purposes. This can easily be combated through knowledge of true scholarly positions and full immersion into research techniques that students will need as adults.
Outside of my own personal reasons for teaching history there have been some VERY well established historical thinkers that have taken up the concept and given their interpretations on why history is important to students. Below are some of my favorites.
Peter N. Stearns. Professor and provost at George Mason University. Also one of the leading authors of books for AP World History
William H. McNeill. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago.
Why Study History Videos