HISTORY AND HUMAN NATURE: More Than Just a Chronological Lecture About Dead Men, Dates, and Never-Ending War

(ORIGINALLY PRINTED APRIL/MAY 2014 EDITION)

By JULIA HAND Campus Press Co-Editor and Columnist

History has long been a dreaded subject for many…its relevance and practicality evades students.  However, history is more than just a chronological lecture about dead men, dates, and never-ending war. It is filled with relatable tales of the individual who made decisions the way we do today. History is actually a useful tool that you can use to help understand life around you. We need to understand how past societies work in order to be a functioning member of our own.

Defending Rights   History allows us to view cycles that repeat themselves over time and use them to make the best, informed decision. For example, throughout the history of the United States, rights have constantly been defended. The right to vote was denied to men who did not own land, to those who were former slaves, and to women. But in that order, we have overcome the inequality and now every one of those groups can take an active role in our country’s republic.

 Recognizing Mistakes   What does that mean to us? It makes for a more tolerant society; a nation that recognizes the past infringement of the individual’s rights and mindfully treats everyone as equals. We now recognize past mistakes, fix them, and then consciously make sure to prevent them from happening again.  History is also purely interesting on an individual level; the most boring piece of information you could ever know about Thomas Jefferson is that he was the third president of the United States of America.

 History: Foundation of Knowledge   As soon as someone hears this, Jefferson becomes categorized into the “dead presidents I learned about in fourth grade,” instead of being seen as a living, breathing, complex human being. Jefferson loved this country and sought to protect the rights of the individual. He also loved vanilla ice cream and was constantly doing home improvements, and knowing those facts makes knowing about him and what he did more personal. History gives us the ability to really get to know those who made our country what it is.

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As Camden County College public speaking professor James Patrick remarked, “History is the context of all learning.”

It is true, history is the foundation of knowledge and it should be understood and used as such. So before you write off history as a whole, just remember — focus on the meaning of events and decisions. Try to momentarily put yourself in the shoes of a world leader, and you just may be surprised at the decisions you make and why you make them.

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