My friends, often times when I tell people I study history one response I hear is “Oh I like history, I’m just not good with dates,” to which my response is “Yeah me either.” Though that response I give is more of a joke, my purpose behind that response is simple. Historians are not simply people who read boring books — though that is part of the gig — or those who can just spit out facts on command. Historians take this information and try to make sense of it.
I’m reading Sam Wineburg’s Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past (Critical Perspectives On The Past), and in the first chapter he talks about how while memorization will help high school students on ap tests, it does not accomplish the big goal of history. I remember when I first became a history major I thought “Well hey I have a good memory, this shouldn’t be too bad.” However, since coming to Messiah College, I have begun to understand that history is so much more than memorization, and that the interpretation is where the fun of history rests! 😀
As a historian, I’m just trying to make sense of the past with the facts I’m given. I get to study the finer details of the past — and while knowing dates and people are necessary tools of history, they should not be the final product of history. History is deeply involved in understanding our thought processes and the thought processes of people in the past, and just trying to understand the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of a situation.
Now all this being said, if you are ever on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and need a lifeline on a history question, call me up — I’ve got some student loans to pay. . .
P.S. It is my hope that after reading each chapter of Wineburg’s book I will try to have a post based off each chapter because the best way for me to learn is to “teach” something, and it is my hope that I will be able to help teach you. 🙂