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Community and nation should place more value on history

Posted 13 February 2014 at 12:00 am

Editor:

In response to the letter “Community can celebrate ‘Heritage Heroes’ while history is under attack,” I must agree with many of the points that the writer brings attention to.

The writer points out that overall, public value of an education in the field of history seems to be becoming ever more undervalued. The letter said, “History, it seems, does not matter in modern society.”

The sad realization is that there is much truth to this statement. In a world where science and technology are praised and seen as the most valuable occupations, we often forget the usefulness of the humanities. As a soon-to-be graduate of Allegheny College, I have been afforded the opportunity of a liberal arts education for the past four years. I am a proud History major, and an American Studies minor. History, like many other humanities disciplines, seems to be increasingly devalued.

Even at the collegiate level, many students of the sciences seem to reject the study of history as a relevant or rigorous undertaking. This could not be farther from the truth. While I do not spend time in labs, or conducting experiments, I have spent countless hours reading primary and secondary documents and books to learn how our current society has been shaped by past events.

The common assumption is that history is unimportant, that it holds no true purpose in our lives. But if one looks at our nation today, would he or she understand the implications of the past as a pathway to our current state? Culture, politics, economics, environmental issues, racial and ethnic tensions and regional disparities have all culminated over the past hundreds of years to create the America we live in today.

Therefore learning about our shared past will not only afford us with insight as to the evolution of the American experience, but it allows us to progress toward the future without repeating mistakes or failures from the past. History is everywhere – it’s in our backyards here in western NY, and it’s as far away as California and Alaska, and it is time that all of us recognize the implications history has had in our own lives.

Furthermore, a degree in history – something I will graduate with in May – is not as limiting as people like to believe. History majors can go on and have just as much of an influence in the world as science majors or engineers. History majors can be more than only museum workers or curators; they become lawyers, government employees, teachers, writers, journalists, archivists, movie and documentary producers, national park educators and much more.

As the writer mentioned in his article, “By subordinating history to lesser status than other disciplines, or eliminating it entirely, we are placing our young people at a significant disadvantage.”

Scientific disciplines are important and very valuable, but disciplines within the humanities are just as important. We must be cognizant that all disciplines are given equal treatment and standing, and should place no greater emphasis on one discipline than another.

Kristina Martin
Holley

The writer is a student at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.