This past weekend, I took a day to visit one of my friends at Penn State-Hershey who is there to complete his nursing clinical. As I was sitting around all these nurses making jokes about their various tests and using lots of terms that I don’t have clue behind their definitions. Part way into the night, someone asked me what I studied at school and I told them history. To which one of them responded, “I always hated history.”
I told this guy that it was a tragedy that he did not have teachers who could inspire to him to have enjoyed the subject even a little. Though the conversation ended up switching to something else, I kept thinking about what this guy said. Truthfully, no one should hate history. There is everything you could want in it. From action, to fiction; from peace, to conflict; from love, to hatred; from negotiating, to backstabbing, history has various plot lines and stories that anyone can find interesting — unless fun just isn’t your game.
This is just something I continue to think about on a regular basis as History ed major. How can teachers take something so interesting, so unique, so human, and turn it into a bunch of boring textbook chapters and vocab terms to memorize for a test? I just don’t get it. History educators should wake people up to their past, not put them to sleep on their desks.
The humanities open us up to our human elements. They allow us to reflect inward as a society, to consider events and come to terms. They let us see times where we as humans are torn and weep together, but also where we are united and sing together. Think about it, the humanities provide a sense of belonging, as you step outside of yourself into something greater.
Who knows? Maybe I just put some of you to sleep with this little rant of mine, but it’s just been on my heart a lot recently, and I just wanted to blurt it all out. The best thing we can do as historians is to excite the past for others, and set the spark for a fire waiting to burst to inspire others to passionately and seriously consider their past.