I did a post back in November called “Why Education Matters” (read it here) when Red For Ed Day was happening. Now, almost three months later, I’m back to get on my soapbox!
I’m student teaching middle schoolers (7th graders specifically) and it’s a handful. I’ll be honest though. I’m really enjoying it most of the time. There’s a lot of good moments and some bad ones. I still think high school is my preference, but I’m going to make the most of the time I have student teaching and learn all that I can.
I’ve been asked this a couple times in various forms, and it seems to break my heart every single time. I hear (usually in a whiny voice) “Why does this matter? Why do we have to do this? Why do we learn history?” It kills me. Literally one of my majors is history. So in honor of my students, I’m going to tell you EXACTLY why history matters.
History matters because…
- It helps make connections- For example, in my classroom, we have been talking about the history of Asia. Two weeks ago, we talked about the Silk Road. This last week we talked about the Mongols. Anytime I ask them why they could trade easier on the Silk Road, I’m helping them establish the connection of “It’s easier to travel and trade when it’s all owned by the same people.” Then, hopefully, they can see “Oh, that’s why we talked about this first. Wow, it’s this new thing from a different angle (I’ll get back to that later)
- It encourages critical thinking- To make these connections, you have to be able to look at events and think critically and deeply about these kinds of things. Thinking critically provides better understanding. I have nothing against science and math, but those are both problem-solving fields. You have to think critically about the problems to solve. Whereas historical critical thinking is more about what decisions were made and why they were made. On that note,…
- It can help you really adopt other perspectives- You’ve heard the old saying “Walk a mile in someone’s shoes.” It means to understand and experience what life was like for someone else. This is literally the beauty of primary sources. You can get this whole context of who people were and how they thought.
- It can help you look at things from a different angle- In college, I did an entire unit plan on slavery in the Western Hemisphere. But I did not include much, if any, of the master’s voice. This unit plan was for a class called Comparative Slavery. We looked at all kinds of slavery all over the world without really looking at the master’s or white’s voice. It was a whole different angle.
- It’s important and good to know how things came to be- While I am student teaching, I am also doing a thesis on early baseball history. I have already learned so much from that, and I haven’t even started writing the actual paper yet! But learning about how the National League and American Leagues came about is so fascinating! (Ask me about the shade early baseball had sometime, there’s a lot of fun information there). The World Series is one of the oldest championships in the United States. But it took a long time for it to come about. 1903 was the first World Series. 1904 didn’t have a World Series, and 1905 saw the establishment of an agreement to make the World Series between the leagues an annual event. Baseball has pretty much always been a 9-man game, but players used to be out if they got hit with the ball (so yes, this meant the fielders would launch the ball at the batter).
- It improves your reading and writing skills- Honestly, History and English work well together because you can bounce and incorporate ideas. I’m a “mean” teacher because I make my kids read and write about history, but they are going to be better for it. Reading comprehension, writing skills, and critical reflection are all developed through history.
- The past is important- We would not be here if it wasn’t for the past. We’ve adapted from using crude tools and weapons made out of only rocks or bones to having sophisticated machines that can solve almost any purpose. Could I have had a blog 100 years ago? No. If I wanted people to read what I have to say, I would have to be a columnist in a newspaper. The past puts us where we are today.
- It is important to know where we came from- There’s a reason you have “origin stories” in superhero movies. Knowing your history helps shape your identity and provides a better understanding of the whole self. This can be true with anything in history.
I think that’s all the reasons I can think of of why history matters. It’s important, even if you don’t think it is. But history is important, and I love it. Really, everyone should love history. It’s a narrative– a fluid story of the world. It encompasses every genre, person, and place. If you don’t like history, it’s honestly probably because you weren’t taught it the right way. Yes, it’s dates, names, places, and facts, but it’s also so much more. To use a baseball example, it’s seeing that the (Oakland) Athletics’ mascot is a white elephant because of a comment made about the (Philadelphia) Athletics back in 1905. It’s about establishing connections that transcend time or place. History is more than random dates; it’s the story of the world, and the story of you.