Unfortunately, the history that really matters isn’t easy to teach and it isn’t particularly sexy. Dates and names are easy and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would call history sexy (although it can be pretty sexy if you know where to look and some of it is actually pretty relevant to a whole host of discussions in modern society). History that truly demands to be learned falls generally into what is termed social history. How people lived; what they believed and valued and decided in their daily lives; how social conventions changed over time. In this somewhat nebulous category lies the direct and indirect causes and seeds for the world we live in today. The grand narratives of statesmen and hallowed laws of ages past are arguably important, but it is how they played out in bedrooms and classrooms and restaurants that truly shaped us.
I am an unrepentant believer in the power of education and knowledge to shape society. In knowing more we become better equipped to improve the lives of our fellow human beings. That is a bit grandiose and possibly too abstract to act as the foundation of an educational system, but if you take an honest look at the educational enterprise today that’s what most of it is about. The hard part comes in realizing that every avenue of study can contribute to the service of humanity. It’s not that history needs to be made relevant, it is relevant. We just need to take a moment to stop societally devaluing it and recognize that we are all a product of our history. If we are ignorant of where we’ve come from, if we don’t know our starting points, how can we know if we’re going in a direction we’d be proud of.