But what happened to studying history? Of course, American students do study history, or “social studies” as it’s more commonly called. There’s just not the paranoid frenzy about it that science and math get. Why is this? I believe it’s because the U.S. wants to look only toward the future. Think about it. All of the upper echelons of this country – educators, politicians, etc. – constantly talk about the future. They rarely mention the past. Science and math are considered the tools to build the future. And the future is important, of course. But without understanding history, the future has no foundation.
It’s frightening how little American adults know about the history of our country, much less the world. I’ve seen it on shows like The Tonight Show – ask random people in Times Square questions about history, and they may throw you some wacky answers, if they get past the “Uh, I don’t know” phase. Edmund Burke, an 18th century British statesman, said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” And I believe that’s what will happen to us.
Without understanding history, the world’s cry of “Never again!” falls away, forgotten by the masses. The Holocaust occurred less than a century ago, yet many of us know little about it. How can we prevent something like that from happening again when we don’t realize it has transpired before? History tells us that monsters prey on the weak, but we cut down our military and try to ban guns anyway. History shows that the Roman Empire fell because of its excesses and breakdown of moral fiber. But we ignore the parallels to our own country. When we study history, we learn that our Founding Fathers relied on the guidance of God. We discover that Communism is oppressive, that cults are real threats, that we will always have the poor among us, and that people aren’t perfect. History is the roadmap of humankind. It shows us where we’ve been and where we’re going. Without it, we’ll just follow the same path.
We’ve lost sight of that, though. In America, we’re so interested in making a “better future” that we don’t look to the past. And without frequent glances in the rear-view mirror, it’s easy to crash. This is one of the reasons I love the Olympics. Every time the nations of the world gather to celebrate sports and togetherness, it gives us a picture of both the past and the future. The Olympics are so rich with history. They’re great because of what has come before them, and the games of today will in turn define the future. So, during these Sochi Games, I encourage you to take a little time to learn some history. What you learn might surprise you.