Many students find it hard to relate history classes to their daily lives. Why learn about people who lived long ago in a time before electricity, television, or the Internet? For starters, history classes are a cornerstone of contemporary education. As American academic James Loewen wrote, “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat the eleventh grade.” But, beyond that, here are three important reasons to value an education in history.

1. It Helps Us Understand Where We Fit In

Some students may feel like the world begins and ends with them, but history offers a different perspective. It tells us where we came from and gives us an inkling of where we’re headed.

This concept is expanded on in a new form of history class, dubbed Big History. Big History breaks the study of the past into big chunks, beginning with the birth of the stars and moving into the human era, pulling in science and other disciplines along the way. Schools have rapidly embraced the curriculum, which was developed with the backing of Bill Gates. Only five high schools taught it in 2011, but that number has grown to 1,200 in 2014. California’s 1,300+ high schools are planning to teach Big History instead of traditional world history, with thousands more schools also expressing interest.

Teachers at these schools know that history has always helped students understand society’s roots, but now with Big History, learners get a greater sense of how and where they fit in.

2. There Are Some Great Stories

Students regularly tune in to television and gab with their friends about what happened to them over the weekend. However, most of the stories they’re exposed to in these everyday events aren’t nearly as fascinating as those taught in history. In fact, historical stories are so thrilling that they’ve inspired many of the biggest blockbuster movies of recent years. There would have been no Lincoln without former president Abraham Lincoln and no The Iron Lady without Britain’s first female prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

That said, students shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that Hollywood will tell them all the best stories. History is full of tales that movies haven’t touched, and movies can’t possibly include all the details about the lives of some of history’s most fascinating figures. There are always more great stories for students to discover in their history classes.

3. History Is Inspiring

History is full of tales of triumph that can lift students up and give them a new perspective on life. Learning that Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white person might inspire a student to stand up for what they believe in. Discovering Hatshepsut, the first female Egyptian pharaoh, may give female students the courage to pursue a male-dominated career path. The tales of Mahatma Gandhi may inspire students to be more patient and loving. These figures may be from the past, but learning about them can make a big difference in a child’s present outlook and future behaviors.


Image via Flickr by Kentucky Country Day

Related Topics

Interested in learning more about k12's online schools and courses?