My heart gladdens with the news that the Federal Government has just directed all basic and secondary schools across the country to immediately implement the teaching of history as a stand alone subject from the next academic calendar.
One Mr. Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, was said to have made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.
The reason my heart thumps with joy is because the removal of history from our schools’ curriculum has since worsened the already existing lack of knowledge by our youth, of where we are coming from, how we got here, and where we are going to.
The reason a vehicle has a small side mirror is to enable the driver occasionally monitor things happening, or that happen at the rear (history). Simultaneously, the same vehicle has a bigger windshield, or windscreen, to enable the same driver focus more properly on things happening in the front (future). The two views are symbiotic and necessary for safety and security of the driver and his passengers (country and its citizens).
That is why the removal of history from our curriculum in secondary schools has been quite painful to me as a person. I have written and spoken severally on this retrogressive and self-immolatory steps. It was Hegal (1857-1862) who once said about history: “History is the process whereby the spirit discovers itself and its own concept”. He also said “world history represents the development itself the spirit’s consciousness of its own freedom and of consequent realization of this freedom”.
It is lack of the understanding of history that makes our politicians to behave like the Bourbons of European history who learnt nothing and forgot nothing. That was why, even after the Treaty of Versailles, which was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War 1 to an end (28th June, 1919 – 21st January, 1920), the 2nd World War still broke out (1st September, 1939 – 2nd September, 1945).
What is history and why is it so important?
History is the study of past events, particularly in human affairs. It is a recording of the olden days, of things gone by. It is a narration of events in the affairs of mankind, including an account of the rise and fall of nations and all events connected therewith. These include the cultural, political, social and economic conditions that affected the human race.
Guess what? History is also the study, not only of past events, but also of future events. We can know these events by looking at and studying recovered letters, books, newspapers, artifacts such as tools, pottery, human and animal remains, etc.
History’s importance lies in the fact that aside from allowing us to study and understand past events, it also enables us to understand our present and thus affords us rare insight into the future. Today is the tomorrow we talked about yesterday. History enables us understand our cultures, customs, origin, as well as those of others, thereby creating and increasing cross-cultural, cross-racial, cross-linguistic and cross-religious awareness and understanding. By studying history, we recreate the past to enable us study the present and re-interprete it for the future. A people without knowledge of their past, history, culture and origin is certainly like a tree without roots. Because men make history (and not the other way round), we usually accept the fact that yesterday is history, while today is a mystery that we must unravel.
The past ignites and creates the present and, therefore, the future. History can help us understand what particular decisions or acts had worked in particular situations, in the past and which did not. This prevents us from committing or repeating the same mistakes of the past in the present.
As few examples, inspiration can be taken from certain energising and motivating events, e.g, the Saragarah and Thermopylae. These teach us how a few stood against many. These can help and encourage minorities who are outnumbered by neighbouring majorities who are marginalising them to stand up for their rights.
The study of why and how great empires fell, for example, can give us rare insight into how to efficiently run our nations, by avoiding the pitfalls of these ancient powers. Perhaps, if the Germans had learnt history, they probably would never have fought in Russia in World War II during the winter, like Napoleon did.
Let us examine and explore some important quotations regarding the importance of history and its place in human life.
“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also much more than that. So are we all.”
– James Baldwin
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“Blood alone moves the wheels of history.” – Martin Luther
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey
“I do not speak Hebrew, but I understand that it has no word for ‘history’. The closest word for it is memory.” – David Miliband
“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” – James Baldwin
“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” – David McCullough
“Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley
“History is merely a list of surprises and can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.” – Kurt Vonnegut
“Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.” – Oscar Wilde
“I can’t change history, I don’t want to change history. I can only change the future. I’m working on that.” – Boris Becker
“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refuse to become discouraged by their defeats.”
– B.C. Forbes
“I believe that we must maintain pride in the knowledge that the actions we take, based on our own decisions and choices as individuals linked directly to magnificent challenge of transforming human history.” – Daisaku Ikeda
“The best prophet is the past.” – Lord Byron
“Life moves fast. As much as you can, learn from your history, you have to move forward.” – Eddie Vedder
“Human history in essence is the history of ideas.” – H.G. Wells
“We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.” – Henry Ford
“To study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning.” – Hermann Hesse
“History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” – Lord Acton
“Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.”
– Hermann Hesse
“The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” – Karl Marx
“History does nothing; it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men, real, living, who do all this.” – Karl Marx
“The historic ascent of humanity, taker as a whole, may be summarized as a succession of victories of consciousness over blind forces – in nature, in society, in man himself.” – Leon Trotsky
“History is a relay of revolutions.”
– Saul Alinsky
“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” – C. Wright Mills
“The past changes a little every time we retell it.” – Hilary Mantel
“History of the world is the biography of the great man. And I said: The great man always act like a thunder. He storms the skies, while others are waiting to be stormed.” – Thomas Carlyle
“Psychology keeps trying to vindicate human nature. History keeps undermining the effort.” – Mason Cooley
“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” – Michelle Obama
“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.” – Abraham Lincoln
“Thank you for coming. We’re gonna make some history together today.”
– Steve Jobs
“The man who has no sense of history is like a man has no ears or eyes.” – Adolf Hitler
“Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” – Aristotle
“After making a mistake or suffering misfortune, the man of genius always gets back on his feet.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
“We learn from history that we don’t learn from history.” – Desmond Tutu
“The Revolution introduced me to art, and in turn, art introduced me to the Revolution!” – Albert Einstein
“History is merely gossip.” (Oscar Wilde)
“Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me.” – Fidel Castro
“History shows that there are no invincible armies.” – Joseph Stalin
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” – Karl Marx
“History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.” – Malcolm X
“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the Pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” – Pablo Picasso
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” – Martin Luther King Jr
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” – Martin Luther King Jr
“I won’t predict anything historic. But nothing is impossible.” – Michael Phelps
“Black history is American history.”
– Morgan Freeman
“You’re going to relegate my history to a month.” – Morgan Freeman
“History is a set of lies agreed upon.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
“I don’t believe in accidents. There are only encounters in history.” – Pablo Picasso
“There is properly no history; only biography.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“To me, this is about preserving history and making it available to everyone.”
– Sergey Brin
“History is a pack of lies we play on the dead.” – Voltaire
“Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.”
(To be continued)
Thought for the week
“I don’t believe in accidents. There are only encounters in history. There are no accidents”. (Pablo Picasso)