History surrounds us in literature, art, and media. The things we use every day are products of our past. History shows the beginning of civilizations and scientific discoveries. It influences our worldview, offering different perspectives. Educators emphasize critical, analytical thinking and storytelling. That’s how it was for my experience and is something I will treasure for life.
Literature is, in my experience, one of the best ways to encounter history. I remember being captivated by the lives of George Washington Carver, Ronald Reagan, Michelle Obama, and many more. This broadened my understanding of the human experience. It made me want to learn more and led to my majoring in it at college. Stories are a great way to connect with people living in different time periods.
Despite its importance, students don’t value history; it is rendered unimportant because of the way it’s taught. According to Cheryl Ledere’s article, History isn’t boring! Final thoughts on a year well spent, it’s not the subject itself, but “the way people interact with it.” Like the sciences, students are trained to learn and understand historical facts. This often causes students to overload their brains with information about historical events and people. Stephen Mansfield’s book More Than Dates and Dead People: Recovering a Christian View of History recounts his experience in history classes with a few words. “Studying history was like being lost in a cemetery– dates and dead people, dead people and dates. The more I learned, the less sense it all made.”
It’s not necessarily wrong to say that history is facts and information; it’s just incomplete. It’s easy to miss the human connection when focusing on just how much students can remember about a historical event. A student could memorize the Gettysburg Address to get a good grade but may miss the significance of that speech or why Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Reading historical fiction can get students interested in history because they are more interested in reading stories about people throughout history rather than just cramming information into their heads. Stories are easy to digest because people can understand, relate, and sympathize with the characters. Daniel Taylor said in “The Ethical Implications of Storytelling,” “Stories call us into relationships with characters and the teller of the story.”
When reading biographies or fiction, we get a sense of who the characters are and their experiences. I felt that when I started reading biographies and memoirs. My favorite memoir, Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang, helped me understand the significance of China’s Cultural Revolution and allowed me to sympathize with the author and those who struggled. I remember thinking about my own life and how I’m privileged to have never endured the things Ji-Li had. It made me think about how easy it is for Americans to take their freedom for granted because we’ve never had to worry about being imprisoned or killed for disagreeing with the leader of our country.
In a way, stories give people a clearer understanding of why history is important and how to approach it. Oftentimes, people approach it with the wrong mindset and wonder, “When will I use this in life?”
It is critical that we study history to gain a better understanding of our world; to get there, we must approach it with the right mindset. The problem is we’ve been fed a wrong mindset that focuses mostly on information, numbers, and facts rather than stories about important people and events. Instead of viewing them as facts to be memorized, they should be approached as stories of people, events in different periods, and opportunities to gain new perspectives on world issues. History is simply the study of the human experience.
Read more about personal development and research articles on the Zealousness blog Research article – iN Education Inc. (ineducationonline.org).
- Mansfield, David, More Than Dates and Dead People: Recovering a Christian View of History, (Tennessee, Cumberland House Publishing, 2000), pp. 2-3
- Cheryl Lederle, History isn’t boring! Final thoughts from a year well spent, ( Library of Congress, June 8, 2018,) https://blogs.loc.gov/teachers/2018/06/history-isnt-boring-final-thoughts-from-a-year-well-spent/
- Daniel Taylor, The Ethical Implications Of Storytelling, (Mars Hill Review, 3, Issue 3,1995) pp.58. https://www.leaderu.com/marshill/mhr03/story1.html