Often when I tell people that I intend to major in history they usually look at me with a puzzled face. They often ask me “why,” or “whats the point,” and more often than not I do not fully get the opportunity to describe why I love it, and why I find it to be more important than most people give it credit for. I tend to give them the short and sweet expected answer you would hear from a history major. The “understanding the past allows you to interpret and understand the present and future,” line is all I generally get a chance to say before they tell me it makes sense and whatever, but that interpretation, while true, is not why I have fallen in love with the topic.
When I was around 6-7 years old I was mentioned in an article about the annual fireworks display in Sharpsburg (Antietam) MD for the Fourth of July. While the blurb in the article is fairly miniscule I am quoted saying that after the fireworks I would be driving to Gettysburg PA to see the annual reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. As early as 5 years old I had taken an interest in the Civil War. Its easy to say this interest spread to many other aspects of history.
Throughout my life I have had time to think about why I truly find history as interesting as I do, and finally after finishing up my 1st year of college I think I have come to a conclusion. History isn’t static. It isn’t a subject where you learn the same forumlas or the same techniques which you can apply to a multitude of things. Not only is history being made every day but what was once old accepted facts can change in an instant from one single discovery. It is a subject where I seriously believe that I could make an impact to the past and future at the same time!
I have had the amazing opportunity to travel to many places around the world which have blown my mind. From walking in the footsteps of some of the most impactful people in histroy (some good, some bad,) on the Appian Way in Rome Italy, to seeing the changing techniques of Pablo Picasso which reflects the history of Spain. To Touch a stone slab on the Coloseum which may have once been touched by the mighty Emperors of the Roman Empire, or to be able to stand in the same place as MLK on the Lincoln Memorial as he gave one of the greatest speaches of all time leaves me speachless. The ability to just stand there and take it all in really puts the present and future into perspective. I think about what the world was like then, and what that moment meant for the world we live in today, and it makes me think what it could be like twenty, fifty even a hundred years from now.
It is very difficult for someone with the viewpoint I have to see people go on taking stances about the multitude of social and political issues facing the world today. Many of these “issues” have become issues because people have lost respect and an understanding for whats made us who we are. The United States as a country has become so socially dumbed down that people now consider some famous celebrity reality star more important than a national memorial or historic piece of land. People consider old battlegrounds nothing more than open plots of land that hold no value other than for building on, they pay no respect for the soldiers who died on those lands to give us the opportunity to live in the country we call home. It disgusts me that people would rather spend an hour watching some reality singing show than spending an hour learning something new. That being said, this media culture society we now live in is exactly what may change the way history is taught.
When all is said and done I know I can’t truly change society, and I know I can not just sway people to love history. Many will just simply never give the subject a chance. When I mentioned wanting to find a way to change how history is displayed I came up with ideas for what I want to do with my career, and what I want to study in my four years at UMW. I really want to focus on the social effects moments in history caused. I want to see what wars, political laws, dictatorships, and technological changes did the countries and regions they occurred in. Lastly, while I could go into teaching and go forth and teach history, I would like to take a different path. I do not want to be stuck in a room lecturing and informing. I dont just want to tell people what Napoleon did to Europe, I want to show people.
Wrapping up this ramble I would like to finish with a simple idea, a food for thought kind of proposal. An idea I believe may actually be something worthwhile. The most popular way of learning new things in todays world is through media. How many people do you know who watch Netflix or have a show they follow on AMC or HBO? Why not embrace this media culture, instead of making a boring stuffy powerpint and stand in a room and tell you what the Napoleonic Code did, why don’t I show you. Lets have a show, a series even, where every season is something new, something true. This show wouldn’t need any added Hollywood BS. No fake love stories or fake political scandals. Lets show it how it was, history has enough scandals and intrique to be just as interesting as all the fake Hollywood add ons for drama. I want people to follow history, to want to catch every episode of history, to dive deeper into the figures focused on. It is possible to make history awesome, and to make it something people actually value once more, and thats what I hope to accomplish.