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Educate a civic nation: teach history

by Archives November 27, 2007

Why are our schools failing students? What has happened to our education system? Over the past decade, funding for history programs in high schools has been cut and increasingly less emphasis is placed on it. This is a very dangerous trend, because this subject provides students with the tools they need to become citizens of the world.
With so much emphasis being placed on math and sciences, students are no longer being equipped with the knowledge they also need. In the very least, history should be mandatory in high school and university alike for everyone; even if they find it ‘boring.’
By teaching history to students, we would ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. But it seems that the powers that be just don’t want the public to be educated about the past. Rather, by heavily emphasizing math and science, they have created a population of productive drones who never question anything.
I recently finished my BA in history, and I am grateful for what it taught me. I was provided with an invaluable background to analyze situations and events with a much more critical eye – it really taught me to think critically. But I didn’t become interested in history because of school. The only mandatory history course I took in high school was called ‘The History of Quebec in Canada in a Nutshell.’ Seriously, that was the name of the course, and as it suggests, it wasn’t exactly very comprehensive or balanced.
Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have parents who always encouraged me to educate myself in the affairs of the world and always ask the question ‘why?’
And that probably is the most important question anyone can ask. ‘Why?’ It is a simple yet effective question that can be asked regarding any topic. But there seems to be such a wide-spread feeling of apathy regarding politics, economics, and especially history in our society today that nobody seems willing to question anything.
Now, not everyone falls into this category; indeed there are many brilliant minds here at Concordia and out there in the world who always question things. But if more emphasis was placed on history in schools, I would wager that more people would become a lot more involved and critical of their government’s conduct. And that’s when things actually might start to change.
Is it any wonder that voter turnout in recent elections have been hovering around 60 per cent? People just simply don’t care anymore, and are largely unaware and uneducated about past governments and their conduct. As a result, the government is therefore basically given free reign to pursue whatever policies they wish, because who will question them?
Those who do are often dismissed as conspiracy theorists, or as having some sort of hidden agenda, but the facts are out there for those who are willing to do the research and ask why! Most people just need to be given the tools and knowledge to do so. Unfortunately, right now the school system is failing an entire generation of students in this regard. This is clearly something that needs to be addressed and something that needs to be changed.
When my sister switched from chemistry to social science in CEGEP, her professor said to her “Megan, welcome to the real world.” That’s a very telling quote. Her professor was acknowledging the importance of social sciences in creating citizens of the world who can truly make a real difference.
So when you have an elective class to take, or a few extra credits you need to pick up, do yourself a favour and take a history class – it will change the way you think and the way you view your government and the world.
If we ever hope to change the way things are done and create a better world, it’s going to take a lot more people thinking critically and asking ‘Why?’
Unfortunately, the only way this will ever happen is if more emphasis is placed upon the teaching of history and social sciences. Otherwise we are doomed to continue making the same kind of mistakes our ancestors made. As the saying goes, ‘History repeats itself’ – but it really doesn’t have to.

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