What is history? Part II

Many of you have responded quite thoughtfully to my question about what history is to you.  A lot of you talked about the importance of learning from our mistakes in the past so we can improve and progress.  I have several questions in response to that:

  1. What does it mean to “progress”?  What does progress look like for a society or civilization?
  2. Have we learned from the past?
  3. Why do we study history in school?  If you were asked to come up with a well crafted argument in favor for continuing to offer history courses in schools, what would you say?
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18 comments on “What is history? Part II

  1. Connor Ellis says:

    The definition for progress is “to grow or develop, as in complexity, scope, or severity; advance”. The way a civilization progresses is that it constantly makes improvements to better itself as a civilization. For example, we are discovering more treatments and cures for cancer.

    • Does improvement have a different definition based on the civilization?

      • Jason Nettleton says:

        Yes, improvement is base on the civilization to the T. Comparing improvement for America to improvement for, say, Ancient Rome is great. Improvement is based on where a civilization stands at a start to where it ends. America may not have ended yet, but based on where it started, it has improved a great deal. Ancient Rome on the other hand also improved a great deal from its start, even though it has reached nowhere near where America stands. Rome developed a strong government, a widespread set of roads, and a thorough plumbing system with its aqueducts. Roman’s government was a republic, and though it was strong, it had its flaws. Americans government too has its flaws, but it has improved Roman’s republic, quite literally; it based its constitution on Roman Republic. It also improved its roads and plumbing. America has a paved complex system that covers the country and an underground water pressured system of pipes. Thus, even though both civilizations are separated by a large gap, both of them have improved.

  2. Kim Cerna says:

    Progress, is really growing and developing for anything really. In a society, progress could be any advancements in their technology, or any type of advancements that could help the people of said society. A civilization can go through many advancements in hope of making a different for the people living there. They can go through medical progressions or peaceful maneuvers to make society peaceful. For instance, in politics a lot of debating is needed for any type of law or decision to be made. It goes through a slow progress but eventually once the decision is made, time is needed to see how we adapt to said decision. Have we really learned from the past? Yes we have in ways to avoid a certain situation in the past that has occurred, but at the same time it seems as though we forget about our history. We study history in school to learn about how we came to be where we are today. It goes from the beginning to a certain point on how historical events have impacted our lives. My argument to keep history courses at school would be, we need to seriously look back on why exactly we have all the things that govern our lives today. Like if we didn’t have that law that forces parents to send children to school, would we really send ourselves to learn? If historical documents weren’t written, wouldn’t we not be able to learn from it? History is needed to learn mistakes, to see how we got where we are. It teaches us many new things and yes, even some that could be avoided in the near future. Without it, we wouldn’t really learn well.

  3. Brittnee Haynes says:

    I honestly do not believe that we have learned an adequate amount of knowledge from history. Numerous countries are infiltrating other countries to prove they are prominent. But war after war and treaty after treaty, leaders of lands rarely learn from these incidents. Surely we make an effort to learn from them, but it is an unsuccessful effort. For instance, World War II occurred due to the inability to learn from World War I. Furthermore, everyone says we need to make changes, and we do make them, it’s just that no one persistently tries hard enough so the changes that are made are beneficial to civilizations. History is forgotten until it is repeated.

  4. Eric Hoang says:

    The definition of progress is an advancement. So, progress can be an advancement in many fields. Progress in society can be to make a neighborhood cleaner or safer. In civilization, progress can be anything, ranging from advancements in cleaner fuel or working for a stable economy.
    I do believe we have learned from the past. For example, President Obama recently signed the New START treaty with Russia. This treaty limits nuclear warheads. This is an effort to prevent a second Cold War from happening. The Cold War was fueled by a nuclear arms race, so this treaty stops a this from happening.
    History is studied so that we can learn from our mistakes. The U.S. is obviously not perfect, we have made numerous mistakes in the past. We can not do anything to change the past, so we must learn from it and improve.

  5. Luc Tran says:

    I think that progress means to become more advanced as time pass. I think that progress would look like more advanced money currency, better houses, writing system, and more advanced transportation in a civilization. For example, the Roman Empire was connected through a series of roads. Also, the Roman Empire used a common currency making it easier to use within the Roman Empire. I think that since hominids first appeared on Earth millions of years ago we have learned diiferent ways to farm like slash and burn and terrace farming. Also, we have learned how to make and use fire. Also, I think that we learned that using coins and currency is much easier than trade and barter. I think that we learn history in school to learn about our past like where we come from. Also, I think that we learn history to learn more about what happened before our birth. I would not like to have history classes in the future because we don’t really use history in our daily lives a lot .

  6. Tyrone Simpson says:

    To “progress” in a sense, is to constantly move forward for better or for worse. While it is important to adress and fix past problems, such as tightning homeland security after 9/11, it isn’t nessasary to dwell on them once it’s been done. The past is the past, there is nothing we can do to change it now, but we can make progress to prevent future events.
    This brings to mind the saying “Rome was’nt built in a day” while that is true, Rome, however did progress everyday.Wheather it be by a house or a hundred houses. Wheather it’s progression led to the Roman Empire, one of the greatest empires of the ancient world. Or it led to it’s decline due to corruption, Germanic, Mongol and other foreign invaders. Even in Romes darkest hour, while it progressivly got taken over, it gave rise to a new empire of beauty, and knowledge when it was all over. The Byzantine Empire, and the start of a new age of time. So, in a way, civilizations are always progressing, hopefully learning from past mistakes.

  7. Kayla Graham says:

    1.) To progress is to move forward. But it is also to make a change in the way of life of a civilization. It does better work for people as a whole to progress together to make their lives easier and safer.
    2.) Certain countries have learned from the past. Like the United States with the civil rights movement. But, other countries are still in the process of learning, like the constant war in places like Somalia and the cruel treatment of women in the Middle East.
    3.) We study history in school to learn from and about the past. It also helps us to enlighten the future. History ties into all subjects, how would we know Robert Hooke was the first to discover a cell if not recoreded in history. Or that the ancient Roman and Greeks founded new ways of mathematics. How about reading ancient literature from famous authors to obsevre their form of writing. So you see, when you take away history courses, you take away a piece of each subject with you.

  8. Jason Nettleton says:

    1. Progress is advancing in any way from what was previously know and done. An example that I like would be inventions. In 1899, the U.S. Patent Office was closed for a short period of time because according to Charles H.Duell “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” This was before many inventions we use today were invent, such as the computer I am currently using. Inventions are made to help advance society by all faster product, quicker transportation, more widespread communication, simplify tasks, and even aiding to daily life. The invention of speech made communication easier allowing individuals to work together, and much later, the inventions of the telegraph, telephone, and cell phone advanced on the invention of speech by allowing individuals to communicate from great distances. The invention of domesticating animals aided to not just food production but also transportation. Domestication of horses allowed riding; horse riding was the start of terrain transportation helping aid into better transportation, such as chariots and carriages which led into automobiles, and also assisted food production by not only making hunting easier, like with Native Americans, but also allowed larger quantities of food to be transported over greater distances than by foot. Civilizations and society as a whole “progressed” and advanced because of inventions, not just their own but also the inventions of others. Necessity is the mother of invention, but invention is the father of progress.

  9. Emily Grooms says:

    1. What does it mean to “progress”? What does progress look like for a society or civilization?
    2. Have we learned from the past?
    3. Why do we study history in school? If you were asked to come up with a well crafted argument in favor for continuing to offer history courses in schools, what would you say?

    For anything, to progress means to move forward and to make new discoveries and advancements. It means to get better and improve. When it comes to civilizations and societies, it can mean many things. Between ancient empires and societies a hundred years ago, progress was made. Progress is advancements in knowledge such as maths and sciences. What would we have done without Galileo’s contributions? He helped his society progress. Technological advancements are a big one in this past couple of centuries. New inventions have helped people perform tasks faster, and more easily. It allows a society to prosper and run smoothly. I think we have definitely learned from the past. We take historical information and use it in our daily life today. Such as ancient discoveries in Mathematics in Gupta’s empire. Without those, we wouldn’t have had the basis of our knowledge of Geometry. We refer to the Mayan calendar, and also take mistakes of past civilizations and learn from them. That is why it is important to learn about history. My argument to why we should study history is so we learn from the past, and realize all of the great things that have been done by historical figures and empires. All young people deserve to learn about where everything started, and how things came to be the way they are today.

  10. Katherine Walton says:

    For a society to progress, something within the society needs to grow. Whether it’s people’s knowledge of math and science, appreciation for the arts or acceptance of religion. Just look at U.S. History, we have progressed so much since the native americans. We’ve devloped technology, we support diversity and we are the home to many great artists and polititions.

    So many different eras, places, and cultures have influenced how America, and other countries are today. We have learned many things from the past, including an apprecation of the arts from the Renaissance era. Islam created the first form of algebra, which is still in use today. The Crusades helped many people to accept all religions, although many parts of the world are still struggling for equality of religion, the crusades were definitely a start.

    We study history in school because it’s important to know how we got where we are. We all need to know about the mistakes made in the past, and how to avoid making them again. We need to avoid disasters such as the Holocaust, World Wars and religious persecutions to the best of our ability. We need to learn how to prevent things like oil spills and help people evacuate cities in case of a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina.

  11. Hilda Otchere says:

    To progress is to improve and learn from the past, which is exactly what history is about it shows us about our past and if there was a bad outcome from some event that when on in the past, we learn from it. Also, the Greek historian Thucydides believed, history tends to repeat itself, so when we learn about history at school we are able to understand what is going on today, and our future.

  12. Holly ashton says:

    Progress is just another word for “advance” and though its context is usually positive such as my grades have progressed it can also have a negative context like, “she has a slowly, progressing, fatal disease”. However when asked the question “what does progress mean for a society or Civilization” there can be many possibilities. For one, think back to the time of Marten Luther King when African Americans and other ethnic groups where discriminated against and were banned from many,many places because of their skin color. They were also not allowed to socialize in almost any way with the “white” citizens. Now look at today, in every park, building, street, restaurant, bathrooms, etc you see African Americans, Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics, Arabs, and more ethnic groups in the same places. This is because America has majorly progressed in its laws, politics, and beliefs.
    However, society and civilizations can also progress geographically by extending its political control over larger areas of land. For example, look at ancient Rome, which started out as a city in present day Italy but over time the Roman empire conquered Egypt and even extended to parts of England.

    Although the Roman Empire was grate It eventually collapsed because it became to large for the Roman Government to govern. We have learned From the fall of the Roman empire and other country’s collapse that a country can only grow so big before it is to large to mange this may be one reason why we are not at contstent war for land.
    We have also learned that you cannot treat people unfairly, and/or cruelly for the color of their skin, their religion, or for no reason at all because the people will one day rebel, start wars, or destroy there government. I would have to say that we are learning from Many of are mistakes, and it is 100% known that we will learn from mistakes we make in the future.

    I believe that it is vital to continue to have history in school because children need to know the mistakes and consequences that have already been made by other societies’ actions in order to not repeat their mistakes again. A good example would be when Germany had almost no money before World War II so the government decided to print more. However, instead of helping its economic depression it caused inflation, which only made the economy worse. If we do not learn about mistakes like this one we may repeat it in another economic down turn, which is why we should be informed about parts of history that may effect us again.

  13. Bradley Otto says:

    Progress- indeed, learning from our mistakes in the past, and bettering ourselves, NOT making those mistakes again. When a civilization, society, or community even, takes and learns from what they have done, and acts upon that, it is true progress. We (America) as a people have learned from the past, but I believe that our leaders have not. I believe that the leaders in some of the past few decades have not heeded warning, based on past events/mistakes, and have made the wrong decision based on that. I also believe that history is grossly important! We study history in school because, as an American citizen (i.e. soon to be voter), we should know where we (America) come from, and stand, in this world today. I would argue that for the “system” to work, there needs to be educated voters to choose the best leaders possible for this country, and history is (and should) indeed a huge part of that education.

    Apologies for the late response(s).

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