The peculiar supposition that some suggest
I recently stumbled across an article and opinion online that has ignited a firestorm in my home and in the minds of several of my friends. The premise for this article is that American children are obese and that one of the most effective ways we might combat this epidemic is to drop History classes in schools to make more room for physical education courses, specifically because History is not needed in life. Dr. Kal gives the following advice to parents.
“Unless you foresee your child being a contestant on Jeopardy, they could probably use a physical education class more than a history class.”
I’m not going to argue that the health of our children shouldn’t be a priority. Schools should keep health and physical education classes as parts of core curriculum, especially to reach kids who might not receive those opportunities at home. On that small part I agree with Dr. Kal, but the rest of his premise is filled with ignorant sentiment about History classes for children and the lack of value of history in education. According to Dr. Kal, “National borders are becoming increasingly blurred. Globalization is growing as the world becomes more interconnected. The knowledge of what happened hundreds of years ago is becoming less useful.”
I wonder if he is familiar with George Santayana, a major figure in classical America philosophy who was born in the late 1800’s. Santayana is famous for his own opinion that, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So should our children be bothered with the draining times and fruitless efforts as Dr. Kal proposes, or did Santayana know the importance of a foundation in history for the success of peoples everywhere, including our children?
Why do our kids need history?
At the basic level, history is our families – today at breakfast, yesterday at the park, and at our children’s 1st birthday parties. Then we move to levels of grandparents and beyond, immigrant relatives who traversed continents and literally plowed the earth to make their homes instead of calling a local contractor. Family history knowledge gives children a sense of belonging and heritage. It also can benefit their health, giving them clues to hereditary conditions and predispositions. Just try to envision not knowing your own history and then you might get a glimpse of what the world could look like without History as a priority.
Without a clear and comprehensive knowledge of the world around them, children have no contexts on which to form their opinions, ideas, morals, and goals. Imagine for a moment how the choices and decisions your children make might could be impacted if they have little or no education about the following portions of history.
- American civil rights and those who fought for them and suffered to bring about our freedoms
- World Wars, civil wars, and other wars that changed (and continue to change) the landscapes of continents – physically, politically, economically, culturally, and socially
- The history of their own faiths, and the ability to comprehend the faiths of others around them
- Inventions, all the way from electricity, to medicine, to barbed wire, and more
- Improvements and changes in tools, processes, and physical structures – if we don’t know that something was tried before and failed, would and should we continue to re-invent the broken wheel?
- Political policies, choices, and programs, including everything from Communism, the Holocaust, or Social Security – Do you want mayors, governors, senators, and world leaders who have limited knowledge of the past or would you prefer a person with a foundation of knowledge, ideas, and tools that have been tested over time? Our world has made enough mistakes without adding the burden of memory loss.
- Environmental issues that have taught us the need for operational reforms in factories, on oil ships, and within our own homes
- Educational reforms and academic practices, such as segregated schools, book burnings and bans, and even the ever ineffective Dunce cone cap (Yes – having knowledge of that practice of student humiliation can help teach us and our children to do better, treat each other better, and be better.)
This is only a minutely partial list of all of the aspects of our lives that are influenced and impacted by history. If our children aren’t taught about what came before them, how can they determine the best path ahead of them? Perhaps the bigger problem is that Dr. Kal and others who share and support his opinion about the miniscule need for History class were not exposed to opportunities that engaged their minds and challenged how they view the world and their positions in it. Whether you are slightly apathetic about schools, active on the school board, or a home school parent like me, do not take the risk of removing our children’s heritage, or you risk destroying their futures.
Be sure to check out tomorrow’s post that will give you loads of ideas about how to make sure that History class is no longer Boredomville for your kids, and how it can actually be a P.E. experience all on its own for the entire family!