As a student that is studying to teach history to high school students, I realize the importance of this subject. However, not all people, especially high school students in today’s society may see the need to learn and to study history. It is very important to learn history for many reasons. Three big reasons are that history gives students a sense of community and humility, it teaches students how to be a responsible citizen and how government is influenced by the people, and lastly, the mere study of history trains minds in how to research and find evidence for facts.
First, learning history will give students a sense of community. We can see this in the way that history and social studies are taught at the various age levels. In elementary school, students learn about community leaders such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers. As they get older, their worldview gets larger because they begin to learn about world history and then United States history. This knowledge of the world around them helps to first instill a sense of self in students and then to instill a sense of understanding of others and community. The curriculum is spiraled this way to help make real world connections from a young age. As the students grow older, their idea and understanding of the world grows larger and the curriculum helps this fact. An example of this in younger students is that it is common practice is to have students research their family history and where their family originated from. This will help provide a sense of self for the student while relating their life to other locations in the world like where their family came from and where other students’ families came from. Learning history can really help to generate a sense of self and relation with the world in young students and older students alike. Without this sense of self and of togetherness that comes from learning history, people would not know how to relate to others and more importantly, would not have any idea of a self identity. If they cannot meet these two goals, then everyone is mostly on their own. History provides a way to develop these two senses of self and togetherness. Starting from a young age and setting a solid foundation for the learning of history is an important step toward that goal.
Next, students should learn history and social studies because it teaches them how to be good citizens and to understand their role in government. History is a gateway to civics and the inner workings of government. Once students learn about the foundations of the United States and the government, then they will understand what it means to be a United States citizen and learn the rights that they have as laid out in the founding documents. If students did not learn history and about the founding of the country and our government, then they would be unaware of their rights, the workings of the government and would not know how participate in government. On the most general level, teaching civics to students through history is essentially the same as training the next generation of world leaders and citizens that are to instill the same principles in the generation after them. If we fail to learn about our history as it fits in the world then we will not a have a foundation to build upon to make the next generation that much stronger than the previous. History teaches students how to become good citizens. Building off of the previous sections of this paper, having a good sense of self and your interconnectedness with the rest of the world is one half of being a good citizen. The other part is knowing and exercising your rights as a citizen, such as petitioning the government, voting and even running for political office if you choose to. Having a knowledge of other people and yourself will help to shape your own political views and will enable you to work within the government system that we have (and you learned) to help improve society for all people. Understanding our role in government is critical to affecting public policy and the betterment of society.
Furthermore, and possibly the most important reason for learning history is the fact that it helps to facilitate critical thinking skills. Thinking back upon my own school experiences, I do not know where else I would have learned my critical thinking skills that I have developed over the years if it was not for my high school history classes. In history, it is pertinent that historians read and interpret primary source documents and then analyze the meaning and its implications for the time period that it was written in. Then they try to evaluate what its lasting impact on that era of history was. This is critical thinking in its most simple form. Sure, there is some critical thinking in math and science that seeks to apply a problem to a real world situation but it does not do it in the way that history does. Having to write a paper in history and needing to evaluate several different primary and secondary sources and somehow come up with a concise interpretation of them for the sake of the paper and working them all into your argument is a difficult yet important critical thinking skill. In addition, relating historical events to present day events and being able to evaluate how we got to the point we currently are is another skill that is very important because it will provide background knowledge and a deeper understanding of what everything means now. Critical thinking is a vital skill and it is largely picked up while studying history.
In the end, history is always a difficult class to get students excited to learn about. However, history is a very important subject to learn especially because it teaches many other critical skills naturally through the ways that history must be studied. These other critical skills include a sense of community and humility, it teaches students their civic duties and how to be a responsible citizen, and lastly, the mere study of history trains minds in critical thinking and how they can apply things they read to their opinions or a real world situation. History teaches critical thinking much more effectively than math and science in my opinion and in those classes when a problem asks a critical thinking question that is relating the content back to a real world scenario about how many apples Mike can buy from Carly if he has x amount of dollars and she is selling them for $.50 each, social studies is always there when I ask what economic factors are causing Carly to sell them for $.50 each and what economic trade off is Mike giving up if he buys these apples. The point is, Social Studies effects all of us as humans are social beings and learning history is important because it gives us several other skills that are critical to our lives.