History is Boring and No One Should Care About It?

What is the point of History class? Beyond providing a convenient space in your day for an hour of daydreaming, there’s not much to truly recommend about this so called “core” class. When one thinks of the fantastic works of literature spawned from English composition, or the tremendous achievements done in the name of Science, or the everyday challenges that can be solved with Math, the achievements of History seem to fall far short of its siblings.

历史课的意义何在? 除了在一天中拿出一个小时给你做白日梦提供便利,似乎这个所谓的“核心”课程没有什么值得推荐的。当一个人想到英语作文课可以衍生出精彩的文学作品,科学课可以诞生卓越的研究成就,或者数学课可以教人应对日常挑战,历史课的成就似乎远远落后于它的兄弟姐妹。

 

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This is the underlying challenge that faces every History teacher. If there is no use in my subject, there is no use to me.It’s the type of existential crisis that keeps one up at night. Self-assured, confident historians might throw down a “those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it” in order to attempt to blow some pathetic wind into their limp sails. However, anyone who says it obviously hasn’t heeded their own advice. Never in history has a platitude changed someone’s mind.

每一位历史教师都面临这样的潜在挑战。如果我的学科无用,我也没什么用了。这是一种让人夜不能寐的生存危机。自信的历史学家可能会抛出一句“以史为鉴,可以知兴替”,试图给他们行进缓慢的船舶带来一丝动力。然而,历史上似乎从没有谁因这句名言而改变思想的。

 

So, what use does History have? Does it exist only to persist societal stories and values? Is History nothing but a tool by those in power to spread patriotically convenient truths? Or is it the opposite? Is History meant to humble us, to connect us to our fellow man and remind us that, around the world or across time, we aren’t so different? Is empathy, to country or man, the “skill” learned in History? If so, History class is surely no match for the world connecting powers of a simple dialup connection.

那么历史的意义何在呢?它的存在仅仅是为了传播社会历史故事及社会价值吗?难道历史只是当权者传播爱国主义真理的工具吗?或者正好相反?历史是否意味着让我们学会谦卑,让我们血脉相连,并提醒我们,穿越时间的我们没有太多不同?

 

 

Or is the skill learned more one of inquiry? Although certainly not something as easily added to a resume as “Microsoft Office Certified”, is inquiry a skill that can be valued and measured? Is the discipline of History about asking, finding, and sharing important questions about human existence and our place on the planet? Is History just Philosophy for dummies? A stepping stone on the way to avenues of true intrigue? Can Historical intrigue ever hope to battle against the precision of the Scientific Method or the philosophical mastery of the Socratic? If intrigue is the purpose of History, then surely students would be better served with their own imagination and the aforementioned dialup connection.

还是说学习更多的是一种探究的技能?尽管在简历中加入对探究能力的“官方认证”,肯定没有那么容易,但探究能力是一种可以被重视和衡量的技能吗?历史是提出问题、还是发现、分享人类在这个星球上的具体位置?历史学科只是傻瓜的哲学吗?还是只是通往真理的垫脚石?能指望掌握了历史学科之后,与精确的科学方法或苏格拉底哲学的相抗衡吗?如果学习历史的目的是激发学生的兴趣,那么学生们的想象力肯定会更好。

 

Perhaps inquiry is too broad. History’s purpose could be towards that of research. A subsection of inquiry, the skill of research is entirely focused on finding and using trustworthy and relevant sources to answer those questions that cling to our curiosity. With the rise of the internet and fake news, is History about this digital navigation? If this is so, does any History class need to teach a specific History? If the skill is about finding and validating sources, is it not counterproductive to present students with a textbook and say, “this book is law”? Would not students be better served with lessons about databases, biases, fallacies and primary sources? Would students focus better if left to their own curiosities in a controlled environment of academic study? Should research be the sole skill learned in History, in the modern world, that dialup connection would be sorely needed in every classroom.

也许调查范围太广了,学习历史可以是研究为目的。作为探究的一部分,研究的技巧完全集中在寻找和使用可靠的相关资源,来回答那些我们好奇的问题。随着互联网的兴起,这种数字导航是否已经成为历史?如果是这样的话,历史课需要教授特定的历史吗?如果这个技能是关于寻找和验证资料来源的,那么给学生一本教科书并说“这本书就是法律”,不是适得其反吗?关于数据库、偏见、谬论以及来源的课程难道不会更好地为学生服务吗?如果让学生们在一个受控的学术学习环境中保持好奇心,他们会更专注吗?如果研究是历史上学习的唯一技能,那么在现实世界,每个教室都迫切需要与历史接轨。

 

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What of truth? Truth is not a skill, but could it be argued to be as important as one? Who can define truth? Can we debate History? Science, yes, contains tested truths that only climate deniers and flat earthers would argue, but is History a science? Or is it an art? If it is a science, why do we need to interpret it? If an art, can any History be trusted? Who has the right to say what is truth and what is not when it cannot be observed firsthand? You? Me? The church? The government? Who is an unbiased source that will solely demand the truth and nothing but? I, for one, should not wish for the responsibility of defining truth, and will leave it to someone with a steady dialup connection.

什么是真理?真理不是一种技能,但它能和技能一样重要吗?谁能给真理下定义?我们能和历史辩论吗?是的,科学包含了经过检验的事实,只有否认气候变化的人和地球变平的人会争辩,但历史是科学吗?还是一种艺术?如果它是一门科学,为什么我们需要解释它?如果是一门艺术,历史能可信吗?当不能直接观察到真相时,谁有权说出什么是真相,什么不是真相?是你吗?是我吗?是教会吗?是政府?谁是一个正义的化身,只要求真相,什么也不要求?就我个人而言,我不希望承担起定义真相的责任,而将其留给可以维护正义的人。

 

At the end, could it be all four? Are empathy, inquiry, research, and truth compatible? If they are ever not compatible, which one must be given right of way? Do we advocate for truth to the point that we deny anyone the right to inquire for evidence? Can our need for verified, unbiased sources blind us to the human connection that bias brings? Can a desire to understand and love everyone cause inconvenient truths to be left by the wayside? What teacher could ever preach for the prevalence of one over the other? Composition is about writing, Science is about observation, Math is about logic, History is about contradictions.

最后,会不会四项全是?共鸣、探究、研究和真理四位一体?如果它们不相容,哪一个占绝对优势?我们是否追求真理而否定一切追求真理的行为?我们需要经过验证的、正直的信息,我们对持有偏见的视而不见吗?我们想要了解和爱每一个人,会不会把令人不快的真相搁置一边?有哪位老师能鼓吹一种比另一种更普遍呢?作文是写作,科学是观察,数学是逻辑,历史是矛盾。

 

At the core of these contradictions is the very purpose of History class. History’s purpose is not in the past, but in the present. Look back at all the questions we’ve raised and ask yourself one more: How did those questions make you feel? I am comfortable in assuming that one or more question struck a chord within you, either one of agreement or dissent. Go back to this question and consider your answer. That answer, whatever it is, is the purpose of History. The contradiction, and the point, of History class is that it has never been about the past but has always been about you. A mirror into the hopes and desires of your heart displaced across space and time. History is more than the human story, it’s your story.

这些矛盾的核心是历史课的目的。历史的目的不在过去,而在现在。回顾我们提出的所有问题,再问自己一个问题:这些问题让你有什么感觉?我可以放心地假设,有一个或多个问题在你心中引起了共鸣,要么是赞同,要么是反对。回到这个问题,考虑你的答案。无论答案是什么,这都是历史的目的。历史课的矛盾和重点在于它从来都不是关于过去的,而是关于你自己的。一面镜子照着你心中的希望和愿望,穿越时空而无处安放。历史不仅仅是人类的故事,它同时也是你自己的故事。

 

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