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History, what's the point?

Originally published by Military History magazine. Published Online: July 22, 2010 
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6 Responses to “History, what's the point?”


  1. 1
    Allen Mixson says:

    You are right: a bad teacher can turn an exciting subject into something terrible. On the other hand, a good teacher sharpen students' interest in a dry or boring subject. The teachers today are more supportive of their unions rather than students. Add the fact that they are often as not political indoctrinators, and there you have the reason students are so badly "educated".
    Why history? If we do not learn from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them.

  2. 2
    Mike Wright says:

    The key word in this is "teach." It's a transitive word, meaning (gramatically) that it takes a direct object. All transitive verbs require action, and this is where some–not all, by any means–teachers go wrong. It's not a matter of supporting or not supporting a union, or of being "political indoctrinators." History can be, but often is not, presented in an interesting manner. Too frequently it is presented this way: dry dates, dry informaion, nothing nothing "human" about it, no attempt to draw in the student by, for example, using events with which students can relate.
    You write in your comment as if history is a "dry or boring subject." Apparently, you had one of those "bad" teachers who presented history to students in the worst possible way. History is not dry or boring. Rather, it's the teachers who are and, all too often, don't like the subject themselves. This is the way they present it.

  3. 3
    lloyd zufelt says:

    Is it true that the North Koreans sailed the U.S.S. Pueblo around South Korea and the Unioted States did nothing? Please tell all of us that reads this Mag. we let OUR SHIP sail past us and we did not even try to take back OUR SHIP? Where was the UNITED STATES MILITARY?

  4. 4
    LTC Frank X. Weiss USA, (R) says:

    History, the story of Mankind on Planet Earth is not only relevant, but is absolutely essential to the understanding of oneself, one's ancestors, one's adveraries and enemies, and one's friends and allies. Existence on Planet Earth is not merely some form of an isolated event horizon, it is rather a continuum of successive human experience. If you do not know what transpired before now, you cannot possibly hope to place enfolding events within their proper context, and/or relative order of importance.
    If you do not know your context in both time and space, or if you cannot locate your unique place within the human strugle for existence on Planet Earth; you are lost. Remember your Lewis Carroll "If you do not know where you are going, it little matters what path you take"

  5. 5
    Richard M. Berthold says:

    I am in fact a professional historian (classical world) and taught this stuff to poorly prepared and initially unenthusiastic students – esp. in western civ – for 31 years. The editor gets it right: illuminating human society and thus our contemporary environment is the point; the drama, comedy and story is the pleasure. I got the students who were already convinced it was crap from high school history teachers, typically named "Coach," who fed them names and dates. I considered it a victory if some freshman in western civ went away not remembering a single name or date but knowing what exactly consitutionalism is and some idea of why the Greeks discovered it. For public school teachers it isn't so much pleasing the union as dealing with all the mandated crap eminating from "educators." For university teachers of history the problems are 1) being bored with the subject (even dopey students immediately sense that) and 2) being disinterested in undergraduate and intro courses because the system rewards grad prorams and research. This slops over into the written stuff, which is essentially to impress other historians rather than educate the masses. I would like to recommend an excellent book written for the educated layman: Dare To Struggle. The History and Society of Greece, written by…me! (I know, this is shameless.) Plenty of stuff on military evolution and impact on society, etc.

  6. 6
    Mike Caplanis says:

    history is unavoidable. it just keeps piling up behind us like… well, it just keeps piling up behind us. you can't shut it off. if you could, what would replace it? geography? penmanship? andy warhol once compared writing a book to a beard. he said, 'if you never shave, you get a beard. if you never turn the tape recorder off, you get a book. there's no way around it.'



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