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A study on why we study history

Why Study History

In her class, Building America: Engineering Society and Culture, 1868-1980, Bsumek teaches humanities and STEM majors how history, culture and politics have shaped technological advances and, in turn, how technology has restructured society in numerous ways in the process. Bsumek, who also teaches Native American and Environmental history, strives to help all of her students see the world around them in new ways.

She says learning history can be interesting and even fun. The more history they learn, the better prepared they will be to solve the biggest challenges society faces now and in the future.

Here are four reasons why she says learning history can help them do that.

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History is an evidenced-based discipline. Both kinds of actions have deep histories. Understanding the complexities associated with the historical experiences of the people involved can help build a better society. History helps you see the world around you in a new way.

Everything has a history. Trees have a history, music has a history, bridges have a history, political fights have a history, mathematical equations have a history. Learning about those histories can help us gain a deeper understanding of the world around us and the historical forces that connect us and continue to influence how we interact with each other and the environment.

  • We start to understand where our ideas, languages, laws and many other aspects of our lives came from;
  • Not weighing all the evidence could mean that you died of meningitis;
  • Politicians, journalists, columnists, academics and Australians from all walks of life argue passionately — and often, ideologically — about the significance of the national story;
  • The best way to prepare students for their future working lives is to broaden their minds by teaching them about change;
  • People engage with history in different ways, for example by undertaking family or local history, visiting museums, monuments and heritage sites;
  • Understanding the complexities associated with the historical experiences of the people involved can help build a better society.

For instance, when we turn on the tap to brush our teeth or fill our pots to cook we expect clean drinking water to flow. But, how many people know where their water comes from, who tests it for purity, or how society evolved to safeguard such controls? To forget those lessons makes us more prone to overlook the way we, as a society, need to continue to support the policies that made clean water a possibility. History education teaches us life skills.

In history courses, we learn not just about other people and places but we learn from them. We read the documents or materials that were produced at the time or listen to the oral histories people tell in order to convey the meaning of the past to successive generations.

  1. It is the subject that contributes the most to the broadening out of the imagination. History has probably never been more politicised than it is today.
  2. The purpose of school history is the development of critical skills in students. The job of school history is to provide students with this intellectual toolkit that will allow them to make connections with the past and make informed moral decisions about their lives in the present and future.
  3. History education teaches us life skills. The prevalence of history websites, books, feature films and documentaries with historical settings are clear evidence of the popularity of history.

In doing so, we learn that there is just not one past, but a pluralism of pasts. This kind of knowledge can help the city manager and the engineer plan a new highway, city or park.

Studying history teaches students the skill sets that they will need in almost any major or job. As a result, history classes help students to cultivate flexibility and a willingness to change their minds as they go about solving problems in whatever field they ultimately choose.

The skills one learns in a well-taught history course can help students develop a flexible skill set they can use in their other classes and throughout their lives.

Photo by Kirk Weddle.