History is Boring...

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History is Boring...

Written: 05/23/2012

You’ve heard all these statements before:  “History is boring.”  “Who cares what happened in 1776?”
 
Perhaps many of you reading this blog believes these things.  I would venture to guess that many of you hold those opinions. That history is nothing but dates and facts and many of you slept your way through history class – or if you are recent high school or college maybe you spent history class texting your friends.
 
For me personally, history and government are the most fascinating subjects in the world. In second grade I won a geography bee competition the school was having – and part of me never looked back. I excelled in the subject at Penncrest High School and as I’ve said in a previous blog I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Secondary Education, Social Studies.
 
I would like now to refute these two claims about history.
 
First off “history is boring.”  Totally and utterly false.  Completely untrue. While I will not concede the point I can understand why people feel this way about history.  The reason people – perhaps you the reader feel this way – is that the subject is often taught in a boring and uninspired way. A multitude of high school and college teach history solely by lecturing and turning off the lights and switching on the overhead projector or PowerPoint slide show.  Not only is this an awful way to teach it does not engage students but rather makes them tune out or fall asleep. This does a great disservice to the students and the stories of the past. 
 
I had a great teacher at Penn State who explained that “history is just the stories of the past. Just stories.”  If history is taught in an exciting way I have no doubt that students would want to learn about history. But if indeed history IS just stories – and that story is told poorly – than many will become disinterested and apathetic.  People think the story of the American Revolution features thirteen colonies all in agreement about independence from Britain.  This is a completely inaccurate thought.  Also one issue that students always brought up to me in class is why was slavery not abolished in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.  Interestingly enough, the word “slavery” does not appear in the documents.  The reality of slavery in the 1770s and 1780s is that it was an economic system and necessity for the southern states.  Understand that slaves came to North America when Jamestown was settled in 1607 – before the Pilgrims ever set foot on the continent in 1620. Plus slaveholders considered slaves property not equal citizens.  It should be pointed out that not all plantations were huge like Mount Vernon and Monticello and not all farmers in the south had slaves – but many did and many had a great number of slaves.  I can say without equivocation that had slavery been abolished at the time of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution Convention the southern delegates would have walked out and there would have not a United States of America as we know it.
 
“Who cares what happened in 1776?”  Well many people do not care at all but everyone should.  It must be known that the delegates who came together in Philadelphia in 1776 were NOT all sold on the idea that the colonies should break away from The British Empire.  This took a great matter of debate and compromise.   John Adams of Massachusetts led the rallying cry for independence. It MUST be understood that when the delegates agreed to declare their independence and sign the document they were now TRAITORS.  Traitors that would be hunted down and hung in the town square or killed by a firing squad.  They were criminals in the eyes of the king and the Empire.  Do you know how powerful the British Empire was?  During the era of the British Empire the British Empire had colonies in Canada, the American Colonies, Florida, Bahamas, Bermuda, Barbados, Tobago, British Guiana, Falkan Islands, Jamaica, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ireland, Malta, Egypt, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Cyprus, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Kuwait, Bahrain, India, Burma, New Zealand and more.  We are worried about al-Qaeda in the present day but no empire was ever as powerful as the British Empire.  So I would make the contention that the founders or Framers as they are called are not boring old dead white men.  They were political geniuses and dared to put their lives literally on the line for their principles.  I would go as far as to call them rebel badasses.  Who do you think is a badass?  50 Cent?  Eminem?  They have nothing on Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Adams and Washington.  These men dared to dream of a better day for their country – and many fought and died for the freedom that most Americans today take for granted.