I’ve heard plenty of fellow students say there is no point in having history class: it doesn’t teach you to write like English, why the world is the way it is like science, and there are so many reasons we learn math I don’t have enough time to list them out.
But why do we learn history?
The reason I’ve heard most often is “History repeats itself, so to hopefully prevent it from repeating itself, you need to learn what happened.” My two questions in response to this: If history inevitably repeats itself at some point in time, what’s the point of trying to prevent it? And how can you be absolutely certain that the reasons you say caused the event actually caused the event unless you were there?
The truth of the matter is that “history repeats itself” is a pretty weak reason to learn it.
I wouldn’t say that I have a favorite genre of books to read, but historical fiction is near the top of the list. That, and things that reference historical events. I love slipping references to historical events into my writing, even if I’m the only one who’s ever going to know about it.
I was thinking recently about why this must be and then I realized that it’s because I love the story, and I think that’s the important part about learning history: the story.
You need to learn the story of the woman who lost her husband to drinking and did everything she could so no other woman would ever have to feel that pain. The story of the soldier who joined a war for no other reason than not wanting to be seen as a coward and lost everything because of it. The story of the man who did poorly in school but grew up to be the Prime Minister of England. The story of the children who fought to have their voices heard and make their working conditions better in a city that was practically run by them, but controlled by the adults. The story of the man who created the book genre “Fantasy” and changed bookstores forever. The story of the woman who said, “Of course I can run a country without a man. And you know what? I’m going to do it better than a man ever could.”
Often, it seems like the only thing you learn in history class is dates, times, and places. But don’t forget the people. The people are the most important thing because they are the ones who created the dates, times, and places. They created history.
You will create history.