What is history? Quotable dates and famous names? Celebrity drama in the past tense?
While there are real questions to be asked about how we can improve the teaching of history as a subject, I believe its value to us is self-evident - to study history is to study human experience. While the certainty of mathematics may make it formidable to study, ultimately history will leave you with more questions than answers. Claire Morgan-Busher, our history tutor at Carfax Education, takes you through the many reasons you should consider studying history as a subject study, and understand the many values that this subject holds beyond the classroom.
History is generally not treated as a core subject, unlike english and maths, but is undoubtedly helpful training for later academic life, in both humanities and sciences. Studying history produces a well-rounded applicant for top universities and gives them an edge on the competition. Although each syllabus focuses on different historical events, issues, and figures, the core skillset between the American, British, and French curriculums remains the same; the focus is on analytical skill, particularly deductive reasoning. History gives students an advantage when it comes to research, as key skills include evaluating sources and assembling and assessing all the information available. The ability to analyse the trustworthiness of data and to have an overview of where the evidence comes from allows these students to excel at producing accurate and relevant reports, which, given the spread of misinformation in online media during recent years, is more important than ever. At the same time, this research methodology leads to well-developed arguments, as it relies on looking for weaknesses in one’s own evidence as well as that of one’s opponent. This self-aware argumentative style is effective as a debating strategy, and is relevant to a variety of fields, including law. Having an evidence-based approach leads to greater confidence in one’s arguments, while simultaneously encouraging an open-minded receptiveness to other points of view. Civic value
Students who enjoy history tend to seek a holistic understanding of whatever they perceive, a trait that is not particularly encouraged by our specialised modern world, but which is still needed in our leaders. Nobody wants the UN ambassadors to miss the big picture when hashing out current affairs, or to find that our political leaders have only considered one side of the debate they are engaging in. As a cultural subject, history can bring us together into a shared understanding of our similarities and differences as a collective. Yet we all have our own perspectives on history, based on our own life experience, which has the potential to create change and improve our societies. We can discuss the mistakes of the past in order to avoid the same failings in the present. History can be turned into a political weapon in the hands of those unwilling to embrace its complexity and nuance, and those who have not studied it critically enough to resist a one-sided perspective. In order to be engaged citizens, aware of current affairs and able to resist propaganda, an analytical historian’s approach is a necessity. Human value While many remember history as a list of unfamiliar names with arbitrary information attached to them, this is much more the fault of the teaching of history than it as a subject. Commonalities exist between us all, to the extent that any in-depth study of a time period will lend a student insight into how it felt to live back then, and empathy for those who did. It can refresh our eyes to look upon the society of another, with its flaws and merits, and then turn to our own world, seeking out the injustice in it anew. History is a discipline that promotes tolerance, empathy, and a healthy dose of humility, as nothing is quite as black and white as it may seem initially. In analysing human experience, we may yet learn to be more humane!
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