Young children have no concept of history. A four year old child may very well not remember that yesterday took place at a different time than today and it is past. The brain of a young child is not capable yet of understanding this concept.
As they get older, children can recall that “yesterday, they went to the grocery store with mom,” or even “last week it snowed.” The length of time into the past of which they can recall and construct a mental timeline is increased as they age. This explains why the scope and sequence of history education taught in the public schools does not begin in Kindergarten, but around fourth grade.
Over the next five years, through 8th grade, students are supposedly taught an overview of the history of the world (liberally biased though it may be). Everything from dinosaurs and cavemen to the 9/11 events of 2001 should be addressed at some point during these formative years. It is not taught in great detail. The intricacies of important historical matters are saved for the high school years.
Of course, this is what takes place in the land of Perfect. It is how curricula should be designed and how it once was taught a generation ago. Indeed, there are still school systems that use this as a guideline. Yet somehow, we are not getting the point across to the students.
A report by the NAEP (linked below) was recently released indicating that only 18% of Eighth Graders are proficient in history. Eighteen percent! (Yes, I am about to go on a diatribe of why this is disgraceful. Get ready!)
“History doesn’t repeat itself. People repeat history.” A former history teacher made sure that his students were well aware of this premise before they left his classroom. How often have you heard people (who are mostly educated beyond their level of intelligence) complain about how “history has a way of repeating itself.” No, it doesn’t. It can’t! Without people in the mix, only geological and weather related incidents can repeat themselves and even then they are never exactly the same. Once you add people to the mix, however, the possibilities of repeating the exact same stupid thing over and again are infinite.
People who repeat history, most especially the mistakes of it, have either not been taught an accurate history of a matter or have chosen not to learn from the past mistakes and apply the lessons. How many manmade economic disasters have we endured because interest rates were lowered too much and the government dumped worthless cash into the market? You can probably name at least two in the last century, but there were more. So then, why does the Federal Reserve keep doing this?
How many times in history have overzealous national leaders decided to attack Russia in the winter time? Even if your history is weak, you should come up with at least two events. Here’s a clue for the next general leading the troops: Don’t do that! It doesn’t work!
How many times have the American people elected a president who has no executive experience, makes promises he can’t keep without committing fraud or robbing from taxpayers, believes that social issues are more important than fiscal or international issues, and/or loses his spine as soon as he is sworn into office? It would probably be in our best interest if we didn’t elect such an idiot again!
These examples are all national and international, but each of us has a litany of stupid mistakes in our personal pasts that we have managed to repeat, only to face the same outcomes as we did the first time. Young children often make the same mistakes they did yesterday. How many times have you told your young child not to touch something only to find them doing it again tomorrow? They have an excuse. Their brains cannot remember yesterday and the consequences they faced for such actions. Adults, meanwhile, have no excuse.
As I look at young students and am made aware of how little history they know, I’m very concerned for the future of our nation and our people. If these future voters, leaders, moms and dads, business owners, employees, and teachers do not know the mistakes made by our predecessors, they are destined to make the very same ones and suffer the same consequences. Can our nation, can our people, really afford that?
An education in history is about so much more than places, dates, and names. History education teaches us where we have been so that we can best determine where we need to go and how we might go about getting there. If we settle for an 18% proficiency rate in history education, it will be difficult for us to have more than an 18% rate of success in our future.