History as a Punchline

We’ve lost our way. In the rush to help our children land lucrative careers in science, technology, engineering and math, we are teaching them that degrees in subjects like political science, economics, and history are non-starters in today’s job market. The sad truth is they are. Over the last twenty years, as a society, we have devalued knowledge of our past and cast off respect for the academic disciplines that promote a deeper understanding of today’s greatest problems.

Facts can be Googled, but understanding, comprehension, and context are left hidden in the blink of a cursor. While one might be able to ask Wolfram Alpha for a clinical definition of hope and inspiration, composing a narrative that leads to both is beyond a search engine’s reach. Sadly, the same is true for many of today’s students. Reason requires a base, a foundation on which data can be placed, and this is where science and technology fail miserably. Shakespeare wasn’t an engineer, Mozart wasn’t a scientist, and Thomas Jefferson knew nothing of the Internet, yet few would argue that these men wasted their lives pursuing irrelevant careers. But with each passing year, that’s exactly what’s happening. The nuances that define us outside of mathematical formulas are being lessened and lost.

The biggest tragedy of this is that historical ignorance has now become a punch line; a tool for cheap laughs on late night television, and something to be pandered to for political gain in Washington. When a majority of people on the street can’t identify even four American presidents, or say which country we won our independence from during the Revolutionary War, something has gone terribly wrong.

The end result is an America that has lost its collective ability to think about matters of politics, economics, religion, history, and international affairs intelligently, and this has left our society open to charlatans, the deification of social causes, and opportunistic politicians. We don’t know who we are and we are teetering on the brink of forgetting everything good that doesn’t begin with the prefix www. Nine years of economic distress and shifting employment standards have forced an entire generation to shun the creative disciplines that provide the heartbeat of freedom.

This collective ignorance is what fuels the fire of groups that wish to tear down our history.  They know nothing but hate, anger, and the history defined by “whoever speaks loudest wins.”  Being born an American still means something fantastic and that story needs to be relearned. We are the outpost of freedom in a world that still needs our example.