“Why do we need to learn history?” It’s the tireless question that I, as a high school student, have heard repeatedly over the past years. The mumbling of this question seems to be the teacher’s cue to whip out a group of quotes, things that say, “The past is the key to the present” or something like that. If I watch close enough, I can see the class rest their heads on their desks, as we all listen again to Mr. Teacher’s speech.
In my freshman year, I can feel myself nodding off again when a new thought occurred to me. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a new thought, since it was the same one that I had been hearing for years. But Mr. Teacher’s message finally clicked in my mind. Without the past, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without the Enlightenment, where would our government be ? Would we still have the right to vote, or would we be under some monarchy? And what about my heritage? Would I still be here, in the United States of America, receiving a good education and looking at a bright future; or would I be in some other part of the world, where I wouldn’t even have those privileges?
Everything that makes up who I am can all be traced back to my history. My parents and their parents, my friends, the lifestyle that I live, the school that I go to, even some of the foods that I eat (Mexican sausage for breakfast? Sounds good to me!) can all be traced back to my history. Every single aspect of anyone’s life can be traced backwards in time to a specific person or society, and to think that those things have made it into my life after a thousand years in the making is truly something special. Maybe someday I’ll contribute something to this infinite collection of ideas, maybe I’ll end up in the history books.
Maybe, a hundred years from now, some kid will ask they’re teacher, “Why do we need to learn history? Who cares if people listened to MP3 players and ate ‘Fast Food’?”
I can picture Mr. Teacher now, ginning and saying, “Well, if they didn’t do those things, then where would we be now?”
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