What’s past is prologue: The importance of studying history

What’s past is prologue: The importance of studying history

If you could eliminate history classes from the general education curriculum at Pacific, would you? You may be tempted to say “yes,” but before you do, you ought to consider a few reasons why history classes are required in the first place.

Professor Duarte, Ph.D., a history professor who specializes in Latin America, stated, “Without a grasp of history… You have no way to place yourself in time or space, no sense of where you have been and thus no way to orient yourself as an individual, citizen and future professional.”

Duarte points out that students of all majors benefit from historical study. Jon Sanchez ‘18, a graphic design major, shared why he values history: “Students should study history because we wouldn’t have what we have today without it… History unites us.”

Duarte believes historical study equips students with skills for researching and interpreting the past, which allows students to have a greater understanding of contemporary questions and challenges. “If students do not have a larger understanding of the world, it will be very hard for them to make a difference,” opined Duarte.

We live in a democratic society, so we are given the right to vote on key issues. It is every citizen’s duty to cast a critical eye on controversial issues so they can gain informed opinions. “Given the interconnectedness of our world today, consulting news outlets with a critical eye ought to be a duty for all students,” proclaims Duarte.

People often rely on their emotions to form their thoughts on controversial issues, but it doesn’t take much personal reflection to see how emotions can be an unreliable guide. Studying history forces students to examine the opinions they hold. Duarte elaborates further, “The study of history prepares students to ask questions, find material to respond to that question, analyze information, evaluate opposing points of view on an event or topic and draw their own conclusions.” Students can utilize those skills to make sense of controversial issues, such as President Obama’s decision to re-establish relations with Cuba after more than half a century of no such relations.

“In learning about the U.S-Cuba rapprochement, students have to read and think carefully, weigh in different perspectives and stay tuned to new developments in this historical relationship, such as the opening of Cuban markets and beaches to American investment and tourism,” explained Duarte.

Business law major Rachel Chen ‘18 stated, “I never would’ve understood the Cuban trade embargo if I hadn’t have learned the history of Cuba and their relations with the U.S.”

“To live responsibly in the world we inhabit,” said Duarte, “we must evaluate and analyze information from different perspectives. The study of history offers the tools to understand the world in which we live and prepares students to create a more just future for all.” Mark Poncardas ‘18, a psychology major, echoed Duarte’s sentiment: “[History] shows how the world has changed as a society — culturally, economically and socially — so we can learn from the past and better the future.” History may deal with the past, but it is certainly relevant in the present time

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Nicole Felkins

Editor In Chief at The Pacifican