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Is History an important subject in school? Or should we be focusing on the future?

In a year 3 essay on dinosaurs I once concluded (much to my teachers dismay) on the statement "We should not learn about dinosaurs in school, because they are in the past, and we need to focus on the future." I now see that history is important, but is it important enough to be a main part of classrooms around the world?

Do you think that history should be condensed or eliminated, and replaced by more pressing issues?

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    Apr 10 2012: Definitely history is not that easy.however it is a cognitive process for us to know what had happened on this planet we are living now.History is really important in shaping my worldwide value in my early years of life and it it taught me what is right to do.i am really into it.so i take my stand to take appropriate history lessons.
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    Apr 3 2012: Our history is our future. Only the toys change, mankind is very predictable. Forget the past and it will only be repeated.
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    Apr 1 2012: Frankly, all of you have good points; however I think there is something missing. History, to some degree is important, but it is typically taught in a memorization manner. Never in my whole educational background was I challenged to reflect or re-evaluate how history works, but rather how much I could retain. This, I think is where we go wrong with learning history.....there is no process of looking at it from a productive perspective. Furthermore, we typically only learn history of our own country but the reality is that history is so universal cause nearly every country is interconnected whether it be through economics, culture, business, finances, goods and services, ecological perspectives. I only remember learning history on war, not of other types of historical subjects. So this is my thought!
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      Apr 1 2012: I agree Leslie!
      I didn't like history as a young person, because it felt like the important thing to pass the course was to memorize names and dates in an effort to get a good grade. There didn't seem to be any interconnectedness or understanding about how history evolved. There didn't seem to be any effort to make those connections. So, perhaps it is the way in which history is presented?

      I agree with you...."never, in my whole educational background was I challenged to reflect or re-evaluate how history works, but how much I could retain". I had the same experience with the educational system.

      It was not until I traveled extensively throughout our world, that I learned more about how things developed. My greatest "lesson" was prior to an adventure to Egypt and Jordan several years ago. Just prior to my departure, my brother (a retired world history teacher) was staying with me for awhile. I read 14 books about the history and culture of the region, and my brother and I had discussions every night ....fascinating....educational....enlightening.....FABULOUS!!!

      With many of my travels, the information that I memorized throughout the formal education process started having meaning. When visiting many historical sites, many things started falling in place regarding how, why and when our history evolved as it did.

      As an adult, I LOVE history because it gives me information regarding how we evolve, and that feels important to me. If we can make the connections, and understand how and why we (humans within societies) evolved in the way that we have, it is very interesting. Perhaps it would be beneficial if history was taught in a different way? I think/feel we really need to connect with our history, and understand how it impacts our future.
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    Mar 29 2012: We can never move forward without a strong understanding of our past. History helps us learn the mistakes of the past and avoid them in the future.

    I think the question should be .. How can History be taught better in our schools to benefit the students?
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    Mar 28 2012: it would be important, but we don't learn actual history. we only learn which kings attacked which other kings. this is irrelevant. we don't learn how people lived.
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      Mar 28 2012: To be fair, my ancient civilizations course included sections on the culture, fashion, economy and religious practices of all the empires it explored (albeit not in too great detail).
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      Mar 28 2012: Are you aware of how boring the classes would be if not for the kings? :)
    • Mar 28 2012: Hi Krisztian,

      Might I recommend "A Distant Mirror" by Barbara Tuchman. You will appreciate what our ancestors lived through.

      Best wishes,
      Doug Bell
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        Mar 28 2012: in return, i recommend you two television mini series from terry jones, ex monty python, namely the "medieval lives" and "the barbarians".
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    Apr 8 2012: If one doesn't know the past, how s/he will understand whether her /his efforts are only targeted to re-inventing wheel or not?
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    Apr 7 2012: I feel that history illustrates our failures, and without history, we do not have the tools to create a successful future.
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    Apr 7 2012: Yes, history is a very important subject in school. how else would the kids know the value of what they have today.
    That will be really stupid, if we stop teaching history in schools, one or two generations ahead none would know how we reached the present state, where we are coming from. it will be like the whole human race has got amnesia.
    who would value those historic monuments, imagine the statue of liberty beeing treated as a mannequin.
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    Apr 2 2012: I think history is presented wrong. 90% of it is dates and titles in most schools. This to me is 100% useless. In good history, you could change all the dates, and all the names and it would be just as useful and interesting. Why? because it teaches a lesson. It shows a discovery. When I was in history class, I would take a boring sentence out of my textbook and go to my dad. He would say something like "That's ALL they said??" and he would toss away the textbook and give me context. He would tell me about what people expected would happen, why they believed what they believed, and how their perceptions were changed, how they felt. Who was starving and who empowered them. He would talk about what made these people famous, how they came to power, how they were thrown down from power. Going into school I was astounded to hear these vibrant incredible people consolidated into names and dates. History is a predictor, but only if you learn it in a way that means something to you in your context.
    tl;dr It is very useful, but only if done right, in a way that is applicable to the future.
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    Apr 1 2012: History has a strong tendency to repeat itself. The most important lesson we can (and have to) learn from history is how to avoid making the same mistakes again. This is why we speak of a duty of remembrance with such things as the holocaust, forgetting it or trivialising it might lead to similar events in the future. It can also give a sense of perspective on human achievements and geopolitical relationships. In fact, can one truly make informed decisions about geopolitic affairs without a solid grounding in history? Many of the problems of the futures take root in the past. Can we hope to solve the Israelo/Palestinian conflict without a good understanding of how we got there in the first place? As for dinosaurs, who wouldn't want to learn about them!?
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      Apr 1 2012: Dear Matthieu,
      I totally agree...we need to understand our past, to improve our future. We need to know where we've been...how and why.....to create a better tomorrow:>)
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      Apr 1 2012: Oh, absolutely. I agree with all that your post expresses.
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      Apr 3 2012: I'm also on the band wagon. In Australia our most reverent day of rememberance is ANZAC day. Several years ago it was suggested that we cease this rememberance of war as it celebrates all that is bad about humanity, but then it ws pointed out that ANZAC day doesn't celebrate a great victory it is observed in memory of a pointless crushing defeat. This is exactly why history is important. You celebrate the bravery of the men and remember the horror of the battle.
  • Apr 10 2012: History creates value and shapes our life. We make better decisions at knowing what all have done it the past. From bad to good, we live in a better life knowing history. History is a difficult subject to learn with all the names, dates, and material being covered. History is nice to read about since everything deals with it like languages, art, or sports. I do not think we should keep history as a subject because it makes us...think differently. It is what it is. I wish I was more into it. I do focus on other subjects at the library. There should be better ways at being engaged in a history course like more projects! There should be more history courses.
  • Apr 9 2012: I don't think it is easy to focus on a shifting potential future, one that is changing with each rapid step in modern technological areas... medicine, computing, agriculture and communication; to name just a few.

    My son attends a school which provides field trips to support history tuition. The 13 year old students have just returned from a week in Pompeii because the class were learning about its destruction. For me, there is something worthwhile in turning history into a living essay which demonstrates something of how people had lived at the time under scrutiny.

    Learning about important dates and the events to which they are attached, does little to place students within the social milieu which is being studied. Our social history provides us with a context within which we can exist meaningfully. This is clear from the social mores which we witness in our daily life.

    The simple act of a handshake has several meanings within different cultures. It dates from at least the 5th century BC and Wikipedia is informative: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handshake

    Reading about the handshake is a unidimensional activity. Visiting several cultures and experiencing the differences would be more informative. Knowing that the Greeks practised handshaking in the 5th Century BC is not especially useful information on its own so teaching that fact has little intrinsic value. Debating why the Greeks shook hands is a more profitable area of study and underpins why historical events give us a context in which we can place ourselves.
  • Apr 3 2012: The problem with history being taught to students under the age of 20 is that they lack cognitive abilities to fully grasp the narrative, to use the modern parlance. Doesn't history gain significance as we as humans mature? For the same reason that only people who have passed the midpoint of life believe doomsday is imminent (latent fear of their own demise), young people are better served learning contemporary geography and current affairs and then working backward. The problem with our educational system is that we start from the beginning and work forward. All people lose interest in things that seem far removed from themselves. It is only with the perspective of age and experience can we see the bigger picture.
  • Apr 2 2012: A few thoughts on...

    Learning from history :There can be no unbiased appreciation after the fact, all perspectives of past eventstravel through layers of interpreatation and interpolation. Do not expect truths from history books, expect opinions and observation. Pre-video history is all about probability, not certainty. When several sources each tell you a different thing, how do you judge the facts of the matter?

    Modern examples of this abound, here in Canada, a bi-cultural nation, we have several differing histories, the aborigional song of the past, the fracophone tale of woe and the loss at Abraham in when the English brought thier rule, among others. This difference is institutionalized, with vastly differnt accounts of past, and present, offered in the schools of culturally different areas.

    Added to this is your own bias... when one reads the plight of the slaves, the child labor,we have an instinctive moral response. Spartan boys of 8 were taken from thier mothers, beaten and starved in a regimen that we would not see fit to visit upon the worst of our criminals, and this was a culturally sound policy, for it made them the pre-eminent infantry in Greece for several generations.

    And yet we gloss over Aristotles endorsement of slavery, as we do the pedastry of Socrates, who considered it the honored duty of a greek male to introduce the sons (12-14) of his friends to the arts of love. It was something you did, if you wanted to be a good friend and citizen.

    We keep the legend of the 300 spartans at Thermopolaye alive, and The Physics, and the Dialoges, while simultaneously divorcing them from the peoples and cultures who did and made these things. Trying to understand history from a litany of dates is meaningless without the context of culture, and all of those cultures are dead. So to often we bring the present into our understanding of history, rather than tan the objective obverse.

    Regards...
    • Apr 3 2012: Echoes of Nietzsche. Cultural bias defines history. Like most of his sophist remarks, "those who forget the past are doomed to relive it" is misinterpreted as a life lesson to be taught. He was actually referencing his theory of eternal recurrence. I'd like to know your opinion of my reply to the history question. Thanks
  • Mar 30 2012: yes it is importance but not to the extent suggested by our education system.
    'You can analyze the past but you must design the future'- Edward De Bono
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    Mar 29 2012: Zoe, Those who do not learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Ergo, our history guides our future. All the best. Bob
  • Mar 28 2012: Hi Zoe,

    Yeah, it's important. You'll want to make your own mistakes, not just keep repeating the same ones that other people made.

    Here's an example. There's a penninsula in Turkey with rows of white crosses, lots of them. Each one sits over the body of a young Australian man, not much older than you probably are. I study history to honor them, to understand why they're there, and with the hope that we can prevent it from happening again.

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
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    Mar 28 2012: Factual history is elusive and of great value. Subjective, biased history is malignant and typical.
    We do not need an alternative to the study of history, we need objective, factual history to study.
    QUOTE: "The men who make history have not time to write it."--Metternich.
    Akin to Journalism, Historical information must be free of the writer's opinions, prejudices, allegiances, pre-suppositions, and personal preferences. We should reform and retain History as part of a complete education. Good question, Ms. Takala, thanks.
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    Mar 28 2012: History allows you to get to know a lot about all the cultures in the world and why we are now like we are. I think the main problem with that subject is how it's teach. I never paid attention to history classes in high school but I can watch the history channel all day long. Probably the best way to teach history is to do it in a very modern and interactive way. But the question is then: how many people that studied history and teach it, are the kind of person that likes modern and interactive models.
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    Mar 28 2012: History is an essential subject, but then I would say that as a History graduate. However, an understanding of our collective past is important because it gives us a sense of belonging and can help us understand the modern world by explaining the political, social and economic processes which have created the world we inhabit. In the UK History is not compulsory after the age of 14 and this is unfortunate because I really do believe that knowing the past helps us understand our likely future
    • Mar 28 2012: Thanks Daniel,
      I really appreciated your view, I can see how the evolution and series of events could help us relate to ones in the future.
      Zoe
    • Mar 28 2012: Do you think that more time in our school history lessons should be focused on learning from the past and using scenarios throughout history, to solve problems today? like a subtopic of problem solving? I would really like to hear your thoughts on any changes you would make to the curriculum etc.
      Zoe
      • Mar 29 2012: Hi Zoe,

        Here's a scenario that could fill a semester or two....

        Take a few minutes and look up "Cuban Missile Crisis". We came very close to a full out US-Soviet nuclear war. US President Kennedy notes that his response was heavily influenced by having just read a book about the spiraling events leading to WW1. He expressed his determination not to start/continue the same. The fact that you and I are able to have this exchange may be largely due to his interest in that historical period.

        Best wishes,
        Doug

        (BTW: The book is "The Guns of August" by Barbara Tuchman.
  • Mar 28 2012: You can't make children focus on the future without telling them the past... thats what I think
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    Apr 10 2012: Our history is crucial in teaching who we are and what we have accomplished thus far in life. It tells many stories of how we can make different choices that will yield positive results for our future. The same amount of effort that goes into teaching history, should equally go into teaching about our future.
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    Apr 8 2012: I don't know what people mean by history anymore but social science [ the branch of science that studies society and the relationships of individual within a society ] is built almost entirely from past events. In this field, we learn almost exclusively from the past. . It happened before we coined a name [see genocide] learnt from it and took measured to prevent a repeat [see United Nations or Human right]. We are nothing without the past. It might interest one to know that pioneers of the Renaissance were inspired by the discovery and spread of important classical texts from ancient Greece and Rome. . The problems of our time in Development economics, the area I know little about, is lack of historical reading.

    The relevance of history to our survival in the developing world cannot be fully expressed in written terms.
  • Apr 8 2012: Can we be here ( or any where ) without the past? And whatever we think / talk in the present even about future,
    is it not on the foundation that we built in the past? So, knowing the past, even if that past is only a perception of some human being with all the colours of the glasses or the defective eye such a person could have had, still leaves some thing to think about to arrive at our own conclusions to move forward?

    That is why History is important. But problem with us is that we want to "believe" whatever supposed to be "History"
    and then instead of working on it, we want to either bind ourselves to that or completely falsify it. Both extreme positions.

    Cannot understand why human beings have such resistance to " INFORMATION " that could be processed into knowledge which could then be applied in the actions that we perform. Is there any moment in life without some action or other? And to decide up on to act or even not to act, what becomes the basis? Is it not the information gained thru History converted as knowledge?

    Cheers
  • Apr 8 2012: It seems irresponsible to not study history--history of anything! But to think that we "learn" from history is somewhat of an illusion. I feel that we only learn selective elements in history and probably pay more attention to history when it cost resources such as time, money or material. As we say in my field (information), if you want to learn from history, indicate how expensive the mistake was. Yet sadly, no mention is ever made of how many jobs a mistake cost meaning that welfare is an insufficient learning motivator. I know that this sounds terribly materialistic and almost wrong but I assure you that it's probably not--just difficult to realize. Think of the number of times genocide has happened in our recorded history and despots--even today--continue genocidal practices falsely believing that their regime is justified. Study history because it's the responsible thing to do but also realize that we don't necessarily learn from it.
  • Apr 7 2012: Well, the future is often reviewed, a tool of review is through history.

    With that said I believe history should rather be compressed with more thought on how it should be reviewed.

    If one looks at systems:

    Form (the structure)
    Elements (parts, components etc...)
    Characteristics (traits behaviors, etc...)

    Then one has interrelations, behaviors, relationships, impacts forces etc....that work in/on the system. I think that history ought to be taught in such a vein, so as to make it more critical, and as you apply relevant to seeing the present and the future.

    Far too often, things are taught as distinct, when in fact they may be different, but are inherently similar.

    For a good review of the History of Political Order, which impacts and touches on so many domains, and is a useful, and corollary to what I have said, see Fukuyama's, History and Origins of Political Order, toward a masterpiece.

    A few thoughts
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    Apr 7 2012: I think history is a very important subject in school, because it teaches us were we came from and who we are. That is very important in life, knowing the truth about the origin of life, of your life. Simply without history the future doesn’t exists.
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    Apr 6 2012: Study your HİSTORY from that learn your PRESENT and from that again give shape to your FUTURE
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    Apr 6 2012: I like this question. And yet, I find this question a real hard stuff to answer.

    But consider this statement from one of our national hero in the Philippines. "He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination." Ang hindi lilingon sa kanyang pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa kanyang paroroonan.

    History is a very great thing. It could not continue to exist if it has nothing to do with humanity.

    History is important. It includes culture, identity, understanding, and many other things. If we neglect history, it is like you have nothing to tell about your childhood or your high school memories. No, but more than that.
  • Apr 6 2012: If we don't understand the historical context of our birth and the generations before us, we will never completely understand ourselves. And that's not just hyperbole. I believe that the sooner we internalize this information, the less confused we will be.

    Consider for instance, two realities of our existence. Why is it that English is the world's language of business today? Why is it that the US is the reigning super power? To answer the first question you'd have to invoke the the British Empire. To answer the second, you'd need to discuss the World Wars, the Cold War and their aftermath. Two examples of how history very concretely relates to our present reality.

    Agreed, dinosaurs may not directly inform our daily lives today. But we can't eliminate history from schools altogether. Other, less credible sources, would then be used to form children's opinions on how their realities came to be. This could be harmful in many ways, I think.
  • Apr 6 2012: Interesting thoughts. I have had many students ask me why they have to learn about the past as they see no immediate value in it. Certainly, the past informs our future in terms of lessons learned as well as coming to a deep understanding of who we are and why we do the things we do. As history makers, we need to understand what's underneath the tip of the iceberg to fully understand our humanity ( or lack thereof) and take appropriate action. Understanding the story of a people from multiple perspectives and viewpoints expands our worldview and puts the 'pressing issues' in a larger context.
  • Apr 6 2012: I find History a particularly interesting topic I often find myself exploring and studying on my own. You raised an interesting argument.

    Despite many people considering, and perhaps absurdly, "that History helps us understand the future", I regard that History particularly helps us understand the present. Until high school, I was under this type of thinking and found it the "perfect" way to teach and study History: to always relate/compare it with the present. At first it was hard relating Greek and Roman stuff with 20xx, but it all made sense in the end. As James mentioned, there should be a balance in History, while always making the students think "How does this affect us, right here, right now?".
    Of course, History is a very long matter, from the Big Bang to the contemporary times. It is interesting to bring History to classrooms, it helps develop kids' way of thinking overall and their way of interpret the present - as well as bringing their little heads some "national culture", and perhaps interest future successful Historians, Archaeologists, Paleontologists.

    Dinosaurs are a very pre-historic particular matter in History, but we can't ignore dinosaurs and pretend they never existed. It is interesting to the study of biology (it helped me) and helps understand the evolution of planet Earth, it is also useful for fiction (and it would be wrong to let future children pair dinosaurs with unexisting creatures like vampires, zombies or werewolves).
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    Apr 5 2012: History needs to stay in school but it also needs to be balanced with a look to the future. One pundit said that if we do not learn from history we are bound to repeat it. Let us learn from history with the knowledge that history is a soft science not a hard science. " History is made by those who write it" a quote from a character called the Patrician in one of Terry Pratchett's disc world novels. It is a fantasy novel but what is said is very true. Very few have to time to go to original documents and we would see history with our own subjective filters anyway. So we should study history but take the books with a grain of salt and realize that they are written by people who have filters of their own especially textbooks. Let me give an example a few years ago I taught 6th grade history and the text book had a full chapter on the history of the Jewish culture. The latest history text has shrunk that to one or two pages but includes a 10 - 15 page history of the Muslim Culture and religion. Not wrong but why shrink down the history of the Jewish Culture and religion?
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    Apr 5 2012: The Democratic Values that we enjoy today are rooted in a history of man made laws that evolved due to precedent cases and ongoing amendments in quest for civilty and better quality of life for all. To strike History out of the school curriculum really is to attempt to nullify the importance or cause if you will, of theories or concepts that are the bases and pillars for our modern blue-print.
  • Apr 5 2012: It's hard enough to ferret out truth from the histories we are taught by those who have taken the trouble to educate and inform themselves. To leave it to pop culture is to turn the world over to the old saw, "Everybody knows that...," which, of course, is nothing but "mob" history with close kinship to "mob" law. Those things children learn in their youth stay with them their whole lives. If those things are what I like to call reality, the child gets a good start; otherwise, not so much. Ever had an argument with anyone about Israel/Palestine? It's a perfect example of how people either pick and choose their "facts"; how they outright lie; and how they base their arguments on things "Everybody knows that...." The first step in resolving any conflict is for the parties to agree on what the facts are. If that cannot be done, there is never any mutually satisfactory solution and "might makes right" becomes the norm. History should equal facts. If it does not and if humanity never can agree that "Joe said this" or "joe did that" even seconds after Joe says or does something that gets recorded accurately, then humanity will never, ever have peace. So, yes, teaching history matters. Not teaching history is an abdication of responsibility. We must try to understand.
  • Apr 5 2012: To understand the present, to change the future, we need to know the past.

    We need to know where we came from, where the problems and crisis we are facing are originated, why there are some political, social problems.

    Without studying history, we could not undestand half of the jokes, social rules, and actual issues we have in Europe.

    I do not think the situation is different in US or Australia.

    Moreover, we need to know what the men dared to do in name of money, religion, politic, power.
    To be better persons, to build better future for our childred and grand-children, we need to know that Auswitchz, gulags, apartheid had happened.

    History gives also hopes, because teaches people that is possible to arise against dominations, that is possible to have a revolution for the best, and also the risks of this revolution.

    Cicero used to say: Historia magistra vitae: History is the teacher for the life. And after 2000 years, I still believe he was right.
  • Apr 4 2012: How can you know where you are going if you don't know where you've come from. History is a fundamental.
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    Apr 3 2012: Let's hope a knowledge of history puts our current situation in perspective. As power gradually transfers from the U.S. and Europe to Asia the financial collapse of what are now the dominant economies is nothing compared to passed transfers of world focus. The dark ages didn't seem to be a lot of fun.
  • Apr 3 2012: I read from many of you that said "History is made to learn from our mistakes" I couldn't more agree on that but its not necessarily what is taught in schools, we don't learn mistakes of the past or, if we do, it is very unclear (at my school at least). This school subject should be reformed. I think the main question should be : Do we choose teachers adequately by referring to criteria such as: Shows a capacity to teach and to adapt him/herself to the students or Shows enthusiasm in helping students to learn and by giving them the appropriate tools of learning. I think that what makes a subject good or bad is the teacher in the first place.
    Anyway, yes I think it is important to have history but I'd like to hear from the history of other countries as well rather than just my own's.
  • Apr 3 2012: Yes. History is absolutely vital to learning. It helps us decide who we are as a society and where we want the future to take us.

    You could say that you would not liked to be defined by your history, that is fine, learning your history will make that easier.

    But how do we teach the future? I think we focus on the future everyday in school. I think teaching history is focusing on the future. I think each subject is supposed to give us skills that we will use to create the future.
  • Apr 3 2012: Perhaps history should be taught along with fiction. It is a distorted view of what really happened for the most part. It turns a particular person's perspective into "fact." Also, it seems that, those who have studied history, tend to repeat the mistakes. Why else do we go from war to war to war to war? Come to think of it, I guess that is simply because women do not have equal power. I do think history deserves less time then other subjects or it should be presented in a way that reveals what it really is......a person's angle on what went down. The victors were not necessarily the heroes, for example. Truth should prevail in all subject matter. Sometimes "history" courses are used for mere propaganda. That's silly. History is interesting.......as stories are interesting. I do think the present and future are far more important to our well-being than the past. In fact dead people get entirely too much respect. I wish the living received the respect that is heaped upon the dead.
  • Apr 3 2012: oh i love histor.. learning the past to make present n future better.. its fun learning it =)
    and i wonder, y not knowing dinosaurs ?!! There were the biggest also small.. Nothing in/out of this world existed/exist without reason.. a purpose..
    > it also helps us to wonder the how big GOD can go in his creations.. :D
    Education is for Expansion.. no need to condense anything, After all it keeps learning fun, the way it has to be.. =)
    http://www.ted.com/talks/jack_horner_shape_shifting_dinosaurs.html
  • Apr 3 2012: and what worth the future
    if today we do not remember
    the past
  • Apr 2 2012: The further you learn on history, the further you can see the future ...... Winston. Churchill
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    Apr 1 2012: In jurisprudence, methinks we don't need to make calls just because we have made them before. Hasn't social conscience and mores developed ?
  • Apr 1 2012: @ Zoe: People should focus on living in the present moment to the fullest by resolving their pasts and clarifying their future.
  • Mar 30 2012: In my opinion, it really depends on what kind of history is taught.

    I believe that in order to try to predict the future one must look back in history to see what went well (and why), and what went wrong (and why). Having said that, some parts of history may be irrelevant and should not, in my opinion, be taught in school. I do not think that history will be 'lost' this way since some people will always have a keen interest in the field of history.
  • Mar 30 2012: Zoe,

    This is an interesting question. The only reply I have for you is this:

    The more I read about "the past" or "history" the more I become convinced that all the truly great mistakes have already been made and keep being made, over and over again.

    Additionally, it is a good thing to marvel at what humanity is capable of. prehistoric construction, like Stonehenge or the pyramids for example are monuments not only to past cultures, but to human ingenuity and innovation that we should take the time to learn about and wonder at.

    If we want to change the future, I suggest understanding the mistakes of the past is the first step on that road.
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    Mar 29 2012: The new, revised and fully updated version of Libyan history textbooks are just rolling off the press. I hope the students get to study both versions so they can contrast and compare - and make their own minds up.
  • Mar 29 2012: The initial question is important. The reality is that schools teach 99.9 % history and 0.1 future. The history taught is also completely different and not universal depending on where you live. It is like the ruling government mainly wants to remain in power and it is very seldom that the previous looser in a war or similar takes part in shaping the local history.
    So what is non-universal history worth? Does it not divide people? And is it good for the future.
    I think the answer should be we need both UNIVERSAL history but also as much studies about the future - in particular for younger kids - they are for heavens sake supposed to be out there in the future (and not in the history) - and maybe act as teachers. i.e. reach even deeper into the future......
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    Mar 29 2012: Lets take it the Corporate Strategy way. First we should know about our past (History) to understand what we are. Then we should focus on the future (what we want to achieve). Only then can the strategy be implemented. History helps to preserve our language, culture,. traditions and ethics. We should modify ourselves according to the changing times but should never stay rigid. Future and Past and related in some way which makes the study of history absolutely essential.
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    Mar 29 2012: We need precedence for our action. History helps us to adjust with the present. We should respect our past.
    My concern is how much to teach as its loathed by many due to overloaded facts.
  • Mar 29 2012: Yes,it is important because we learn from our past.It is where we see the problems and missing pieces that helps our civilization.
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    Mar 29 2012: without history we would not know about our pas> History makes us understand our present time and future.
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    Mar 29 2012: We should take into consideration that:
    a) History repeats itself.
    b) In order to know where you're going, you have to know where you came from.
    c) Most historical figures and their stories are an inspiration to our daily lives.

    I do agree with Gowtham Sunkara though, we should work on the manner in which this subject is taught rather than eliminating it all together.
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    Mar 29 2012: I believe that life is all about perspective, and without understanding the period where certain things happened or decisions were made; you really cannot understand the context. Context is a value and a trait that appears to be missing more often in the debates and issues of today. The way I look upon history is it's a framework for everything we know. You cannot understand philosophy without understanding the earliest of Greek cultures. Now I am also a believer, if you didn't catch on to the perspective part, is that history is in affect no more than a story. Literature is a form of history. President John Adams was relegated to near obscurity by history until Robert McCullough rewrote his place in history. History is the humanities. It is philosophy. It is literature. It is integrity, traditions, injustices, life lessons, science, discovery, etc. It is all history, and for that any chance to study and discuss historical perspectives I believe is important.
  • Mar 29 2012: I believe that history is in fact one of the most important subjects in school due to the fact that an understanding of how the world came to be as it is leads to a deeper understanding of the present as well as the future. For example, if we observe history and understand what was the root cause of most wars, famines, economic disasters etc. we are better able to prevent the same from happening again and can make plans to avoid these same issues in the future. A lack of understanding history can be very dangerous. For example, Rome declined as an empire in large part due to overspending, over conquering, hubris, a decline in education and culture amongst other things. Understanding this, we as Americans can now see a similar situation in terms of our relative reduced standing in the world by being massively in debt because of wars which were probably avoidable, dysfunctional government, and hubris during the Bush years. A knowledge of history could have helped us avoid this.

    Additionally, understanding history is understanding the human story. It deals with such questions as how did modern science come to be? How do we know so much about the universe and why is democracy so awesome? How did fascism and terror spread to many parts of the world and why is it still thriving in so many places today? I would consider these profound and important questions and could probably continue on listing them for the remainder of my waking hours today without breaking stride.

    So the answer to the initial post "Is History an important subject in school? Or should we be focusing on the future?" is YES YES YES!!! It's important AND we should be focusing on the future. A useful question may also be, is HOW we are teaching and dealing with history as a subject in the classroom as beneficial and useful as it could possibly be? My answer to that question would be NO. We should focus more on the whys and hows rather then on the whats and whens.
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    Mar 29 2012: In a 8th grade, when studying the U.S. Constitution, the teacher assigned the class to copy the constitution to paper in order to prove we had read it. ZZZzzz...

    History presented in this fashion - I do not recall a history class offering much more - borders on worthless. If presented in a way that offers an understanding of past events/cultures/etc. and their analogies in today's world, then the importance is fairly clear.
  • Mar 28 2012: Seeing as everyone here is one one side of the debate, let me play devil's advocate. In recent times, cultural evolution has accelerated - exponentially. While history has value, with global instant communication, the national and cultural boundaries and shifting and fading, with the move towards a global perspective. Where history is currently important, the formation of a globally cohesive society will reduce its relevance.
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    Mar 28 2012: Yes of course because according to me without knowing the past future cannot be made better.
    It is our past that teaches us what to do or not in future and at school level it is very important as this is the time when our future get carved.
  • Mar 28 2012: Zoe, I feel that it is important to study history so that we can know our past mistakes
  • Mar 28 2012: I think history needs to be taught at school because we do not want to repeat the same mistakes.

    We don't want another World War 2, we don't want dictators to come to power because people naively think power does not corrupt. We want students to know that people have the power to change governments. We want to acknowledge all people that fought for freedom and oppression.

    Students can learn a great deal from history about enlightenment movement, wars and peace, about various systems like socialism and communism etc.

    However I don't think kids should need to memorize dates or which king ruled at exactly which time period.

    Seems to me that dinosaurs at least are important aspects of biology and history about evolution.
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    Mar 28 2012: Let's not forget one of the most interesting things about history, and that is that those humans weren't biologically/neurologically very different from then modern human. It's very interesting to consider that the ancient Greeks were people who thought, felt and experienced with equal clarity to us. It reminds us: we can be nearly anything from vicious and cruel to amazing and creative. We have been for thousands of years, and only if we make the right choices we could be for thousands of years to come.