Ah yes, history, my least favorite subject. Growing up memorizing fact after fact, date after date, person after person. Memorizing was not my strong suit. However when I began to take AP United States History (APUSH) and we started also talking about why things happened, the cause and effects of certain events, and what we can do now to prevent history from repeating, I began to actually like history. In a survey of educators conducted by EdWeek, 78% said the purpose of teaching history is “to prepare students to be active and informed citizens.” The other 22% said “to teach analytical, research, and critical thinking skills.” (Ujifusa) In the EdWeek research, while most educators said the primary purpose is to create informed citizens, EdWeek makes sure to point out that those who said “to teach critical thinking skills” are not wrong. So today we teach history so we can better prepare the youth for the future. Overall I would say this is true especially if you consider we continue to move forward as a society so everything today is better than it was in the past… right? In Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a strain of the Georgia Flu causes society to collapse and enter an apocalyptic state. In this apocalyptic society there is little to no technology, the life expectancy is short, and there is a lot of yearning for the past. However, there are children born who had never experienced the before time, and there is this conflict of what you teach these kids about the past. When told about how good life used to be compared to the survival life they live now, it is very painful for children to live in a world that is so close, yet so far from their current reality. On page 269 Michael is talking with Daria about how his daughter cries when she learns about the past and how “amazing” it was. Daria makes a point of how she would like her kids to know of all the knowledge they used to be, as long as it doesn’t cause them any sadness. Michael then says it causes his daughter less happiness, and thinks she would be better without the knowledge of the past. If the world ended tomorrow, and we were left in a state like those in Station Eleven, I am not sure if I would present today’s world as bigger and better than the apocalyptic world. Yes, there are less struggles for food and shelter and more technology and fun opportunities, but there are still so many problems today that, if we were given the chance to start history over, I would want to change. When teaching history it is important to teach ALL of history, and not just pick out what we “think” is important. In Station Eleven, they choose to talk about the greatness of the past instead of the problems, making the students sad and feel as if they missed out on life. However, if they talked about all of history, including the civil rights struggles, government corruption, social inequalities and so much more, students may be motivated to recreate the good of the past and fix the things that weren’t so perfect. By teaching all of history and not being selective, students would become informed citizens with critical thinking skills, which is the true goal of history education. Yes, we should teach history. We should teach ALL of history in order to create the most informed and research driven youth to create a better future from today.
Ujifusa, A. (2020, December 29). Sure, We Teach History. But Do We Know Why It’s Important? Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/sure-we-teach-history-but-do-we-know-why-its-important/2020/01