|With all that is in the headlines today (together with what is not); scandals at the IRS, VA, NSA and happening abroad in Ukraine and Iraq, it's hard not to get a sense that you are living through History here and now. And since we're in the subject, did you ever ask yourself this question, at least once, while you were in school?:|
Polemarchus: "But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
What did you think of the answers you were given? As an adult, with kids in school, you might want to pursue that question a little further with something more like this:
"What do I need to study History for?!"
Is what it is that our kids are studying, still History? - or has History itself been relegated to the ash heap of history?Of course to even be able ask these questions, you have to consult History... so to avoid going 'round and 'round in circles, we'd better first ask the question which very few people ever bother to raise:
What is "History" and what do we hope to learn from it?If you search for a definition of the word 'History', with the exception of Wiki, believe it or not, you have to look far and wide for any site that gives the original meaning of the Greek word 'History'
"from Greek historia, meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation"That understanding of the term was clearly the sense with which it was still defined in Webster's 1828 Dictionary which gave:
"HIS'TORY, n. [L. historia; Gr. knowing, learned, and to inquire, to explore, to learn by inspection or inquiry.]Note the phrases I've underlined, the first being that facts & events alone are not History, and second, History includes the observations of the writer. Why? Hold that thought a moment. That understanding still substantially persisted in how Webster's 1913 Dictionary, defined History, although it had slipped down to second place:
1. An account of facts, particularly of facts respecting nations or states; a narration of events in the order in which they happened,with their causes and effects. History differs from annals. Annals relate simply the facts and events of each year, in strict chronological order, without any observations of the annalist. History regards less strictly the arrangement of events under each year, and admits the observations of the writer. This distinction however is not always regarded with strictness. "
"1. A learning or knowing by inquiry; the knowledge of facts and events, so obtained; hence, a formal statement of such information; a narrative; a description; a written record; as, the history of a patient's case; the history of a legislative bill.But that sense of History is pretty much gone from the modern Webster's definition:
2. A systematic, written account of events, particularly of those affecting a nation, institution, science, or art, and usually connected with a philosophical explanation of their causes;"
": the study of past eventsThis newer definition essentially relegates History to being what the 1828 definition emphasized that History was not: Annals. Up through a century ago, History was still largely seen as knowledge and understanding obtained through inquiries into events "...usually connected with a philosophical explanation of their causes..."; and now to return to the thought I asked you to hold onto above: for what reason? The historic reason, was that it was in order to obtain Wisdom; to provide a means to a better understanding of ourselves and our culture; to provide an aid in developing an awareness of the pitfalls which our desire to make progress often leads us into, with hopes of it helping us to avoid repeating those errors ourselves; and a means of helping us to better understand the reality of where we are now, in order to help find our way more surely into the future.
: events of the past
: past events that relate to a particular subject, place, organization, etc."
One wag summed up the alternative modern approach to history, as being one where,
'Americans treat history like a cookbook. Whenever they are uncertain what to do next, they turn to history and look up the proper recipe, invariably designated "The lesson of history"'Which is a recipe for bad history.