Does History Matter?
What locals in Baltimore County have to say about history…
By: Justin Albright (Towson U. History Student & HSBC Intern.)
Over the past week I have been traveling around Baltimore County asking locals in the community if they think history matters. The purpose of this was to allow locals in the community the opportunity to share their opinions, while also allowing the organization (HSBC) the opportunity to gauge public interest. This blog will discuss some of the answers provided and give my responses to same questions.
It should be noted that the sample size of the questionnaire was very small, and the answers provided do not speak for the community as whole. Nonetheless, those who were surveyed worked in an array of professions, and spanned several generations. Furthermore this blog is not intended to be a publication of results, while the information provided on the surveys will be discussed, the intent of this blog is simply to start a conversation. So, after reading this blog I do encourage you to share your thoughts on these questions, whether it be in the comment sections or on the HSBC Facebook page, because your opinions matter, and we love hearing what you think.
There were three questions listed on the questionnaire that in my opinion contribute to the bigger question Does History Matter? Below are those questions (in bold), and some of the answers provided.
QUESTION POSED: Do you think History Matters?
For this question I asked participants to simply circle yes or no, and the results were not surprising. Everyone surveyed circled yes, and I also agree that history does matter.
This did not come as a surprise because we all at some point in our lives took a history class. And even if we do not remember everything that we have learned, the majority of people feel it does matter, how ever small or large it may be.
The next two questions are the ones that I personally take the most interest in, and they are the questions I encourage you to share your thoughts on. Keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers, and the answers provided below are simply pieces to a discussion. So read the responses and join the discussion.
QUESTION POSED: In your opinion, why does history matter?
Some of the answers provided: with name and profession listed
“History matters to me because it’s always good to know what’s happened in the past” (Amanda, Cosmetologist)
“The constant teaching of history teaches us our mistakes and how we can fix or improve on them” (Jonathon, Seafood Specialist)
“History teaches us about our past: our past achievements and mistakes. It paves the way for our knowledge to be expanded by modern thought and technology” (Rachael, Finance Professional)
“History matters because it often has a way of repeating itself, both good and bad. It is important to learn from the past, so we can grow in the future” (Michael, Waiter)
“It allows us to understand who we are (and it is) the first step to deciding where we are going. Plus it is interesting, and it builds empathy to the past and makes life better.” (Christian, History Professor)
“History matters because it helps us understand the present more fully. It helps answer the “why” of things and provides context for dealing with both the present and future. Maybe it’s better to call this historical education. I always find that understanding the history of something makes it more interesting and helps me from becoming too judgmental about what happened or from trying to use only current contexts to understand/evaluate/explain. I am always in awe for example after watching documentaries such as The American Experience, and these instill a deeper understanding and respect for what people in the past have endured. (Don, Environmental Manager)
What I think…
History examines many aspects of the past, and everyone draws from past experiences when progressing forward. Whether it is learning how to do something better based on past failures or being influenced by something you previously read, in the end past and present always intertwine. So it is important to examine the past, so we can better understand the present.
QUESTION POSED: What do you think historic interpretation entails?
(Some of the answers provided: with name and profession listed)
“Putting things in the context of the period” (Jason, History Student)
“I think it entails looking into the past and figuring our motivations and patterns that have influenced historical events” (Hannah, Teacher)
“Providing the most reliable views of history while telling more than one sides story” (Jim, Retired Engineer)
“Providing a better understanding about history in more than one way” (Brandyn, Leasing Consultant)
“Making the past accessible. Highlighting the stories that reveal who we are and guiding us in discoveries.” (Christian, History Professor)
What I think…
Historical interpretation for me is about the examination of a source (whether it be an artifact, a letter or book, a piece of art, or records) and using it to piece together a bigger picture. Because there is always another angle or piece to the puzzle that helps reveal something new. Historical interpretation in many ways is like being a detective; you are presented with a piece of evidence and must ask why this piece of evidence is important, from there it your job to piece together a story by investigating all the angles and other pieces of evidence you can find. And in the end you come to an answer.