Why Study History? Part I: Introduction

“Why do I have to learn when the Battle of Hastings occurred? When am I ever going to use this information in my life!?”

Such laments about learning the events, peoples, or places of history are not uncommon in the school classroom. For some time children are taught about those people who came before them, and those events which led up to their own time. Yet, why? Why spend so much time teaching students about history? It seems rather impractical to spend so much school time on the past when schools are supposed to be preparing students for the future, right?

Claims like these are among some of the reasons why history is losing its place in the modern American school. In a series of upcoming posts I plan to explore the role of “history” in education, which up until the modern era held an essential role. Recent calls for educational reform are essentially a plan to return history to its place in education.

My plan for this series is as follows:

  1. First, I will offer definitions of both “education” and “history” in order to explore the proper relationship of the two ideas to one another.
  2. Second, I will give a brief survey of four ways that history has been used as a part of the educational process going back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
  3. Third, I will explore the philosophical shifts that have led modern American educational systems to displace history (and the humanities generally) in place of science and technology subjects.
  4. Fourth, I will survey attempts by several different kinds of educational reformers, all of which see the failure to teach and study history one of the essential problems with American public schools. All of this will go to show that the most robust education must have a place for history.

Stay tuned!

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