Being Ignorant About History is Dangerous

Ignorant History

History has never been my strong suit, but I picked up the basics: who won the largest, who lost out the most. What mistakes we have been making over and over since the dawn of time. I got the jist. Patterns are easy for me to pick up, even if I’m bad with specifics. But, I understood what I needed to, picking up information from long lectures and boring textbook assignments. I sucked out the marrow of history’s mistakes, so that we are not doomed to repeat them. After all, this is the purpose of mistakes. To learn. Then we pass down our experience so that our posterity does not have to experience the same traumas.

So, when the video of basic history questions being answered incorrectly or not at all by college students surfaced on the internet, I was appalled. Coupled with the realization of the “victor’s bias” within my textbook readings of Contemporary World History book for school, I was grief stricken. What would the men of generations past say to us about this travesty? Many of them can no longer speak, as natural consequences of life prevail, but I’m sure they would warn us of the dangers of repeating our mistakes. Of war, famine, and destruction. We have days to honor those who fought for our country and who experienced the brutality that humans can inflict upon each other. Yet, we dishonor them daily by living in ignorance.

As a growing generation, we are expected, nay, required to know our past so that we may act accordingly in the future. Our stupidity has gone on far too long. In a nation that hardly knows itself, we act as if we know everything. Perhaps Americans are so hated because we’re impolite, or maybe it’s something deeper: our constant ignorance of the mistakes of the past. If we continue on as blissfully unaware as we have become, we will face more destruction.

For instance: most large wars start years after the past generations of war veterans die off. We need to heed our history, and that starts first by knowing it. Apart from our general misvaluing of knowledge, we have forgotten history, and if we don’t act soon it will have consequences, as history has shown.

Secondly, we must present history accurately. Even within college level course we still only portray history from  the victor’s perspective. Case and point: “they got out of hand” talking about Indian nonviolent protests, or that “Peasants of China were no match for Western armies.” Such textbook readings appallingly display only the victorious viewpoint without showing both sides of the argument. This furthers our ignorance and displays one perspective information while also warping its context. The lessons are then watered down from there.

Living in a new transparent society requires us to face our pasts boldly and truthfully, admitting our mistakes as well as our victories. Just as being a progressive human being requires us to knowingly acknowledge our mistakes and work against them, so must we acknowledge our past for what it really was. Not only will this benefit us, but to do otherwise would be catastrophic in the long term.