I am a high school teacher trying my best to get my students to understand the importance of history and the connection history has with literature so that they can realize its a tool to help them better navigate the world they live in. I constantly tell my students how special they are and that they are the ones next in line to change the world. Most of the time my students sit clueless as to read, write, and think critically. Each morning I have a quote on the board for my students to think critically about and then they are to write down eight sentences about the critical thoughts they had on the quote. I tell them they must constantly activate the part of the brain responsible for critical thought and curiosity because innovation and curiosity is what makes us great as humans and is responsible for solving the world’s problems and individual problems. Most student want to instead play on their phones, either texting, SnapChatting, or doing something else but many of the students say they can’t understand the quote on the board or they can’t think of eight sentences to write. Many more students wonder why they have to learn history in a Literature course, which seems odd to me because we are reading about the origin myths of Native Americans. It seems logical that if one is going to study culture, history will be apart of that study of culture or you won’t understand the culture you are studying. It also makes sense to look at other cultures in the world to seem the similarities and differences of the cultures that way its easy to see what each culture valued, how the culture lived, what problems the culture faced and how the culture solved problems. But all of this cultural stuff is mixed in with history and when the history of the culture was documented to preserve the culture it became literature.
Here are is a good article I found on why history is important:
All people are living histories – which is why History matters
Penelope J. Corfield (Items in parenthesis added by Rodney Smith)
Historians are often asked: what is the use or relevance of studying History (the capital letter signalling the academic field of study)? Why on earth does it matter what happened long ago? The answer is that History is inescapable. It studies the past and the legacies of the past in the present. Far from being a ‘dead’ subject, it connects things through time and encourages its students to take a long view of such connections.
All people and peoples are living histories. To take a few obvious examples: communities speak languages that are inherited from the past. (They live in buildings and houses that were built in the past. They go to school in buildings that were built in the past- RS.) They live in societies with complex cultures, traditions and religions that have not been created on the spur of the moment. People use technologies that they have not themselves invented (Cell Phones, IPADS, Desktop Computers- RS). And each individual is born with a personal variant of an inherited genetic template, known as the genome, which has evolved during the entire life-span of the human species.
So understanding the linkages between past and present is absolutely basic for a good understanding of the condition of being human. That, in a nutshell, is why History matters. It is not just ‘useful’, it is essential.
The study of the past is essential for ‘rooting’ people in time.
Rodney Smith’s Example: Not knowing history would mean you would not know why the Native Indian/Native American population is so low,why they live on reservations, why suicide rates are high for them, why poverty rates are high for them. Since you would not know the history you would not be able to figure out why they live the way they do and believe what they believe. If you did not know history you would not know why so many African people are in the United States, The Caribbean, or South America. Then if people don’t know why African people are in these places they will inaccurately assume why African people are so poor, unemployed, and incarcerated across the world. You would not know that The United States killed many Mexicans in a war to take present day California, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico. this would mean you would not understand talks about deportation, citizenship, and other talks about immigration. There is so much people would not know thus they would not fully understand the world, they would be left with whatever the media says which is repeated by others who don’t know history in barber shops, beauty salons, and other places.
Back to the article:
And why should that matter? The answer is that people who feel themselves to be rootless live rootless lives, often causing a lot of damage to themselves and others in the process. Indeed, at the most extreme end of the out-of-history spectrum, those individuals with the distressing experience of complete memory loss cannot manage on their own at all. In fact, all people have a full historical context. But some, generally for reasons that are no fault of their own, grow up with a weak or troubled sense of their own placing, whether within their families or within the wider world. They lack a sense of roots. For others, by contrast, the inherited legacy may even be too powerful and outright oppressive.
In all cases, understanding History is integral to a good understanding of the condition of being human. That allows people to build, and, as may well be necessary, also to change, upon a secure foundation. Neither of these options can be undertaken well without understanding the context and starting points. All living people live in the here-and-now but it took a long unfolding history to get everything to NOW. And that history is located in time-space, which holds this cosmos together, and which frames both the past and the present.
End of Article
I wrote this to document the history of my time and to allow my student to comment and interact with the world using today’s technology. I want my students to understand they are making history everyday by what they choose to do and what they don’t choose to do. They have to know that reading, writing, knowing history and reading literature is important to understanding the world around them so they can make informed decisions that will impact their lives and the lives of others.
Please leave comments for me and my students.