Why We Learn History

Mr. Travagline taking time before class to brush up on his mythology. Life lessons can be learned simply from reading ancient myths and stories. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Polansky)

When looking through a typical high school student’s schedule, it is fairly easy to see the real world application for each class. Pre-Calculus is a must for engineers, any English class is helpful in the education field, and Biology is necessary for a career in Biomedical engineering. These classes—and most others—have a clear cut purpose and are directly applicable to certain careers and college majors. Where things begin to get a bit more convoluted is the subject of history.

In looking for a career related to history, one might find very little more than historian or history teacher. If there is such a narrow spectrum of practical application for the field, then why do we bother to learn history?

For Mr. Geoffrey Travagline, a history teacher at Leesville, the answer is much simpler than you’d think. “History gives us the tools to look back in the past…and decide how we want to change for the future,” said Travagline. “By looking back and understanding the past, we’re giving ourselves the capability to dictate the way that we want to live our lives in the future.”

By visualizing history in a much broader scope than a potential career path, the possibilities for its utility become seemingly endless. Politicians can turn to the wisdom of their long dead predecessors for guidance, generals can look to ancient strategists to turn the tide of war, and social reform leaders can learn from the mistakes and successes of movements past. Even the average person—in nearly any scenario—can seek knowledge from the near endless supply of human history.

To say that the teaching of history in the modern landscape is a pointless venture would be completely ignorant. Some courses are taught for the impact they can have on society and its people; not simply to set people up for a prosperous career. As citizens of the world it is our duty to learn from the past and not repeat our mistakes in the future. As Travagline put it; “We’re not just teaching the past, we’re teaching the past so that we can change our future.”

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