Why study history

I have often wondered what it is about history that is so intriguing and why I enjoy teaching it so much. It is a subject that does not get enough credit in terms of what it offers to students. History prepares students for their future, it enables great critical thinking and analysis skills, it expands the mind, and it allows for valuable arguments to be put to the test.

History teaches us about the wonders of society

It is a fact that we can flesh out the wonders of a society: that we try to understand what led to the beliefs of a society and ponder on how cultures have been formed. It is, after all, the memories of events and interactions with people that shape who we are and who we have become. It is our heritage which talks to our inner conscience.

I further feel that, especially now, in an ever-changing society and with a future filled with tremendous uncertainty, we need to be prepared for and understand how our society and others work. Not only do we see change on the front of technology, but also in the moral standards of people and on the topic of globalisation. And so, we have to ask: are we able to shape students to become global citizens with the ability to negotiate, create and shape a better world? Will this generation be ready for the change?

History helps us understand how change is brought about

History aids us in understanding what brought on change and how we should better deal with it. For example, we should take note of the small changes and events that led up to the World Wars. We need to realise that something small can set off a huge change. In this ever-changing world, it is therefore more important than ever before to find one’s identity amidst all of this change.  

History teaches us how to tell our own stories

It is so important to tell one’s story. This will include the questions of where you have been and where you want to go. It is important not to doubt the fact that your identity, path and journey have value or can cause interest. Let’s be honest – other people’s stories always sound more interesting. Therefore, telling your story will add interest to others’ lives, even if it is only to learn something small. It is only when you have found your identity that you can create the confidence to stand firm in the person that you are and tell your story. It is also valuable to listen to each others’ stories, to preserve them and to pass them down to those who come after us.

These stories further inspire us to take action in our own lives. History teaches us about our ancestors, about our country and the hardship those before us had to endure to create the beauty and comfort in which we can now marvel and live. This can inspire us to build an even better or more sustainable future and to create a new appreciation for the now in which we live.

It is then, when we more fully understand our country and countrymen, that our goals are set for the future and it will become easier to notice the warning signs. These warning signs will be signs of suffering and risk that our ancestors lived through and it forces us to act and be proactive in building a better future.

This also forces us to be better people as we start to build empathy, understanding and the ability to negotiate.

Why should we love History?

If we put humans under a microscope, we will notice that we have not changed that much. We still love and dream. We still face fear and death. We still hope and conquer. And it is still very prominent in our minds to gossip and manipulate, to create and kill. The only difference is the method we use to accomplish these, and in the modern world, it would appear to be happening on a bigger scale.

Nothing illuminates this more than history. The reason why students might find it boring is because of the lacklustre manner in which schools offer historical content as facts to be regurgitated. This tedious manner of learning can simply not be beneficial. Then along came Cambridge, who exposed a new way of learning, a learning based on self-discovery and research. This way of learning links more to the actual study of history in that we want to uncover secrets that have been lost in time. Who would not enjoy a mystery? In fact, many popular video games and movies are based on history. People are engulfed in gaming culture and enjoy constant bingeing on TV series as well as movies. If we can only see the connection between these modern-day phenomena and our history as a species, then students would learn to enjoy history in their own way!

For most people, history is interesting because it allows for the causes and effects of important events to be analysed. That is actually why history is taught in schools: to help students understand why a past event occurred and how something similar could potentially be repeated or prevented. Personally, ancient history fascinates me because of its mysterious nature. We think we know everything until we discover some ancient artifact or site that completely goes against our initial thinking. We learn and we adapt.

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