Thursday, March 6, 2008

History Has A Trinity

My blog colleague Mark, the Master of posted a link Why Learn History? to an article that provides the best answer to a question Mark, and many who call themselves historians have received.

Mark begins:

This is a question I occasionally get from older children (and not a few childish adults). Despite the anti-intellectual motivation that is usually behind it, this is not an unreasonable question to ask. Basic questions are sometimes the best ones.
Diplomatic historian
Walter A. McDougall has an answer that I can happily endorse:

I wholeheartedly concur with Mark's observation, and Walter A. McDougall's eloquent answer.

The Three Reasons We Teach History

In short they are:

One, obviously, is intellectual. History is the grandest vehicle for vicarious experience: it truly educates (“leads outward” in the Latin) provincial young minds and obliges them to reason, wonder, and brood about the vastness, richness, and tragedy of the human condition.

The second pedagogical function of history is quite different, and often seems to conflict with the first. That is its civic function.

—which brings us to the third, moral, function of history. If honestly taught, history is the only academic subject that inspires humility.

Mr. McDougall's article serves as an important reminder to all historians and teachers of history, that their mission, is to pass the record of human endeavor along to the next generation. But, the most important element, is to ignite a passion, so that the craft, and it's trinity for being taught continue to burn.

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