Why teaching World War I is crucial in 2018, by John Terry for the Washington Post

Don’t I know it.  This has been my primary academic focus for the last three years. Through the Osher Life Long Institute at the University of California, Riverside, I just finished teaching a three course mini-series on the causations and resulting affects of late 19th and early 20th century history. The correlation between then and now is sobering. This is a clear reminder as to why the study of history is so important. Societies around the globe continue to make the same mistakes.  They will continue to do so if they place no value on knowing the why,  the how, and the what that has previously worked or not. 

So how do we as a society re-prioritize the teaching of history, culture, sociology, anthropology, macro-economics, and civics in our K-12 and undergraduate programs?  Falling under the canopy of social studies, these areas of inquiry continually get pushed out of sight in favor of a STEM education. This is what I call the single conveyor belt education primarily driven by individual economic needs. Clearly, vocational skill sets are of a primary necessity.  But our responsibility to the collective welfare of all demands much more. Shouldn’t the goal of education be to assist students  in addressing the very human needs of each level of Maslow’s Hierarchy?

Differing areas of study should not be put in a position of competing, where one wins and one loses. It certainly can be argued that those individuals that possess the broadest base of knowledge are in the best position to not only be successful from a vocational perspective but as contributors to the greater needs of society.  Sean Decatur, President of Kenyon College underlines the value of a broader based education offered through the nation’s liberal arts colleges in his recently published essay in Linkedin.


So again, how do we fully assess what needs to be done outside the confines of our individual silos if we don’t understand, or even care about, the greater environment around us to begin with??  Understanding how we got to where we are is an imperative. The vestiges of the socio-political-economic characteristics that dominated western societies more than a 100 years ago is readily apparent in our contemporary lives. If history repeats the happenings of 1914 we will have no one to blame but ourselves.



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