I came to a couple of conclusions last night during class.
Last night my class held a discussion concerning the Bosnian War, the Siege of Sarajevo, and recent Eastern European history.
We had just returned from an eye-opening weekend in Sarajevo where we learned a lot and took back many things to think about; we were spending our class time analyzing and discussing our experiences, thoughts, and learnings from the trip. The discussion was great and a lot of insightful, as well as thought-provoking comments were made and yet, things were said that caused me to finally put a finger on what had been bothering me throughout the past couple months.
These were some of our statements: “Yeah, I had never even heard of Bosnia before.” Or, “I didn’t even know that this war had happened,” as well as, “How did this happen?” These comments skittered in and out of our conversation innocently and humbly and then it hit me – and now I’m frustrated.
First of all, I do not blame our group or myself for our lack of knowledge about Bosnia and its happenings of the last few decades, nor do I believe that one can know everything that goes on in the world – there is just too much.
But, I must begin to file my complaints.
I am a history major.
I have studied history for a good ten years, more so if you include learning about the pilgrims and the Civil War in elementary school. And yet sometimes, especially as of lately, I’m beginning to feel as though I have been fed a specific and narrow helping of history that tends to center around fewer and fewer historical events, people, and eras while beating a dead horse with the same discussions about the same things.
In the last 10 years, this is what I know well as this is what I was taught; perhaps your knowledge is similar to mine:
-The Medieval Ages
- The Renaissance
- Colonialism in the Americas & The African Slave Trade
- The Civil War
- American Expansionism
- World War II.
ESPECIALLY World War II.
For these events, I am thankful for the teachers who have filled my head with critical analysis and a solid knowledge of these events. But I have to protest about what we missed.
Here’s my short list:
-Latin American History: What’s up in Peru?
-African History: Colonialism? What Colonialism?
-Asian History: …so China before Communism?
-Canada: Um yeah – just everything about Canada
-Australia / New Zealand – Well I know they speak English..
-Eastern Europe – Did we purposefully ignore this area? Because it feels like it.
-Russia – No, they weren’t always Communist.
-Middle Eastern History – Yup.
Wait, isn’t that the whole WORLD minus America and Europe? Exactly.
..but what we’ve missed most of all is modern history.
Maybe I was the only one, but my knowledge of recent history, until I took college courses, was limited to the last week before the AP history exam where we crammed in everything from WWII to George W. Bush. (20 minutes on the Korean War? Oh boy!)
I get the feeling that perhaps I am not the only one frustrated with this. Yes, I know that schools have to get through a certain amount of material and sometimes there is just not enough time. But didn’t we have all of middle school and high school? Could we maybe have talked about South Africa for just a couple of minutes?
And is it really necessary to spend so much time on Egyptian or Roman history? Yes, it’s cool and interesting, but what bearing does it have on our world today? Answer: not as much as we’d like to think.
Why did we spend so many weeks on World War II? I have learned so much about World War II that sometimes I never want to learn about it again.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I know World War II is incredibly important and has a lot of bearing on the way the world is today, but there are many, many other events that have shaped and are shaping our modern world as well.
Perhaps what frustrates me the most is that we don’t understand current relations with other nations because we have failed to learn our recent history. For example: until last semester, I didn’t know that the United States occupied Iran for years – and yet we wonder why Americans have such terse relations with Iranians…(??)
I wonder how we are supposed to understand the way nations act and think if we don’t know their history. How are we supposed to communicate diplomatically and politically if we fail to understand who they begrudge, who they have steady relations with, and what their recent history is? How can we even begin to say we know world history if we fail to learn about any other parts of the world besides Europe and America? If I’ve learned one thing from my classmates in Hungary, it’s that they KNOW their world history. And I want to be like them.
Alright. I’ve said enough and I want to go read a book. I don’t have the answers and there’s a lot more to be learned.
“History teaches everything including the future.” -Lamartine