I was never strong with math in school, and I always struggled with more advanced science. But when it came to studying history and anything to do with our civic, governmental processes, I excelled. And not only did I excel at it, I had fun and enjoyed it!
I don’t know where exactly this came from, as I have always loved studying history and government. But if I had to guess, I’m going to say it stemmed from being raised from a very young age to respect and love the flag. From when I was a very little boy of probably 3-4 years old, I always loved how Old Glory looked. I loved the American flag, and stars (as in the shape). I just had a fascination with these things as a very little kid. I credit Mom and Pop for raising me to have a strong sense of patriotism and respect for our history and national symbols.
Fast forward to when I was about 11, and I’m sitting in Mrs. Kisabeth’s 5th grade Social Studies class. The two things I remember from that class: She was a strict disciplinarian and made sure we knew our facts and dates for testing. And, we always used to watch a cartoon called Liberty’s Kids. It was like clockwork. Every Thursday or Friday after lunch. I remember it being later in the day. So of course I was excited! What kid wouldn’t be? I got to watch a cartoon about my favorite school subject, I didn’t have to take a test or do homework for that period, AND I get to leave school soon after to enjoy the weekend?! Sign me up!
But I also enjoyed the show for its educational value. History was no longer some old, outdated story about a bunch of dead people kept in a dusty book. Liberty’s Kids brought history to life for me! I enjoyed following the action, learning important dates, and cool facts about life during the Revolutionary War period. The Revolutionary War remains my favorite period of history to study, in part because of this show.
Jump ahead a couple more years, and there I am sitting in Mr. Mulholland’s 7th grade Social Studies class, or Mr. Webb’s 8th grade Social Studies class as a junior high student in 2004 or 2005. It was here where I learned how civic processes worked. I learned the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial),and their powers in deeper detail. I learned how many total members of Congress there are (535. 435 Representatives based on state population, and 100 Senators. Two from each State). We read through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and learned how Amendments are added or repealed too. While having a healthy dose of fun and humor every class period. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Although I can also completely understand why history was probably very dry to many of my classmates. I feel that people either have the knack for certain subjects or they don’t. Many of my classmates were great at math and science. While I was great at history and reading/English. I had the polar opposite skill set they did.
Next, I’m a 16 year old Sophomore in Mr. Asher’s Human Conflict and War class in 2007. I will always feel that this was such a wasted opportunity on Mr. Asher’s part as a teacher. If you could call him that. The man just handed us packets on various wars throughout history, from the Ancient Greeks to World War II, popped in the corresponding videotape for us to watch, and then he took a nap. Sometimes he snored in class. I didn’t think much of it then. A high school kid didn’t think much as soon as they saw the teacher roll out that big TV. All my fellow 90’s babies out there know what I’m talking about. We’d mentally check out as soon as the TV was rolled to the center of the classroom.
But knowing what I know now, part of me wishes time machines were already invented and common. Because I’d hop in, shut the door, type in 2007, and go back and teach that Human Conflict and War class myself! Yes, war is a sad thing that humanity feels it has to wage far too often. But the material in that Human Conflict and War class was so interesting to me, because I could actually see so many things: The advancement of technology, the rise and fall of civilizations, and the political context of whatever time period we were studying.
Time Traveler Luke would’ve been like: “Sit down, Mr. Asher. I’ve got this. I’ll take it from here. You’re not teaching anyone anything. These kids need to know why this is important, and why they should be passionate about learning it. Give them a reason to relate to the material or get excited about learning it, and they will! Trust me!” And I would’ve gotten everybody’s attention so they were locked in and excited. Mr. Asher wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. There should be people who are genuinely passionate about the subject they teach, and they should focus on helping students learn it in whatever way fits that particular student or group of students. Otherwise what’s the point?
After high school, I think my love for studying history kind of faded. Perhaps leaving home for Kent State, meeting new buddies, living by myself with no roommates, and chasing cute college girls had something to do with that? I was definitely preoccupied with other things 😉
But then I got to do something for the first time in my life: Vote in a Presidential Election! At 21 years old, I finally had a say in who our leader would be, and could not wait to make my voice heard! I was still young and idealistic. Not older, wiser and cynical about politics like I am now. I also was unaware of how truly important it was to vote one’s conscience, or to vote for a candidate who most closely matched my values and worldviews. I didn’t do the research and then make a decision. I merely voted Republican because that’s what my parents had done. After I voted, I went down to the Rathskeller, the basement of the KSU Student Center, ordered a cold Guinness, and watched these results come in.
I voted. But looking back now, I was uneducated, like many young college students seem to be these days. They haven’t truly learned to think for themselves yet. They are merely parroting what their parents or other authority figures have told them. But it’s not their fault. It takes a light bulb moment or life smacking you in the face before you realize how important history and politics are. And it is incredibly important to develop your OWN informed opinions beyond that of your parents or professors.
My light bulb moment, and the resurgence of my love for, and interest in, history and politics probably occurred sometime around 2015, when now-President Donald Trump rode down the escalator at Trump Tower in NYC as he announced his candidacy. I am not a Trump fan. I think the man is unfit for office, as is his 2020 competitor, Joe Biden. But I digress. My light bulb moment came when I realized Donald Trump was serious about running for President. And not because I saw him as a sort of savior for America. No. My eyes were opened when he was running for President, because I saw him as a symptom of something bad. Desperation on the part of the American people, perhaps? But the main question going through my mind at the time is one that I still ask myself to this day: “Have things gotten so bad that THIS is who we’re forced to pick from? Yikes!”
From then on, I have followed politics like a hawk. I’ve kept up on all the important things coming up for the current election cycle. Why? I believe voting, thinking for yourself, and knowing how we’ve arrived here in history can help us to be good stewards of that history, and good citizens. If we remain ignorant of history, our election processes, and the candidates who are running for office, we risk putting the wrong people in some VERY high places.
History, no matter if it is good, bad or ugly, is meant to be learned from and preserved. Not ignored or whitewashed to avoid offending somebody. History is meant to be used as a roadmap to guide our society out of the pitfalls of dark times into ages of prosperity And history is also meant to serve as a warning to future generations. If history is ignored or scoffed at, the worst parts of it will one day be repeated in the future. Guaranteed.
At its absolute best, politics is guided by history as well. If the guiding hand of history is present in the core of our political processes, our leaders will better know how to lead our nation forward into a brighter future. If they know and study history, they will know what works and what doesn’t. If history is ignored for the sake of power, as is happening right now, we risk facing some very dark times in the near future. Even darker times than we’re currently in.
If I had to personify history, I view it like a lovable, wise grandparent who has a memory as sharp as a steel trap. And they love telling stories to entertain us or help us grow in wisdom and understanding. If we are wise, we’ll listen to them, learn, and grow to love them and all that they teach us. However, if we are foolish (like it seems we’re being now as a country), we laugh at them thinking we know better. We disrespect them, thinking they are irrelevant and not worthy of our love and respect. We ignore them as they fade away and die. Only for them to haunt us in our nightmares later!
It is our choice whether or not we want to pay attention to history. As for me, I choose to love being a student of history. I choose to stay informed and awake. And I choose to be passionate about it! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go brush up on my knowledge of the Legislative Branch. Later, everybody! 🙂