Summary

“To history has been assigned the office of judging the past, of instructing the present for the benefit of future ages. To such high offices this work does not aspire: It wants only to show what actually happened.” – Leopold von Ranke [1]
The 19th-century German historian and father of the modern historical method Leopold von Ranke taught that history should be taught wie es eigentlich gewesen, or as it actually happenedHistory comes from the Latin historia which means 'story' or a 'narrative' of past events. When presented this way, history can capture the imagination and help people living in the present not only learn names, dates, and places but imagine life in former times. This consists of identifying the dreams, fears, hopes, desires, joys, sufferings, and triumphs that those peoples experienced. 
Personally, I find the surest way to interest those living in the present who are easily distracted with the pleasures of the modern world. By linking the present with the past, people can see how the past shaped the present, particularly how events shaped their own lives and the country in which they live in the here and now.
             This blog is not dedicated to any particular geographical location or time period, so topics will be wide-ranging. 

About me
I majored in history because I didn’t want to go into a career in which I’d be miserable. As there was only one subject that I looked forward to during grade school, this made it an easy choice. 
            History is not my passion only because it’s interesting, but because of the need for it in today’s American society. According to a 2011 release of the National Association of American Progress, fourth graders, eighth graders, and twelfth graders performed worse in history than in any other subject. This is largely a result of national education standards mandated or encouraged by the federal government to keep American students up to par with other nations in math, science, and reading, thereby neglecting the humanities. This has led to the combining of history with the other humanities by throwing them into the social studies category.[2] 
           A Newsweek survey of a thousand American adults found that 73 percent could not correctly identify why the U.S. fought the Cold War, 44 percent could not define the Bill of Rights, 80 percent did not know that Woodrow Wilson was president during World War I, and a staggering 67 percent did not know that the United States’ economic system is capitalist. These results confirmed what I have long believed about historical knowledge being tied to political knowledge. Conservatives and liberals surveyed generally knew their history, while the mushy moderates of the cynical center were in the complete dark.[3]
            This historical ignorance doesn’t hurt most people in their careers, but from a geopolitical and national perspective, it can have deadly consequences. It is easy to mislead a public that isn’t aware of its past, much less the past of other nations with whom their country comes into contact. While the U.S. is trying to catch up with the Asians in science and math, its citizens are falling woefully behind Europe in social studies and general knowledge of international affairs. According to another Newsweek survey, 68 percent of Danes, 75 percent of Brits, and 76 percent of Finns could, for example, identify the Taliban, but only 58 percent of Americans were able to do the same—even though the United States took the initiative in dethroning that Afghan faction after the September 11 attacks.[4]
    However, with loads of free information available today and younger generations more internet savvy than their elders, one would assume that this kind of historical ignorance would be quickly disappearing. That assumption is unfortunately wrong. A Stanford University research team found after ten years of interviewing young Americans, only 28 percent knew that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land, 26 percent knew that the first ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights, and under a quarter knew that George Washington was the first president.[5] According to a Marist poll, only 31 percent of Americans under the age of 30 was able to identify 1776 as the year in which the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.[6]
The only way that this unfortunate downward trend of historical literacy in the U.S. can be reversed is if historians and history teachers find new and innovative ways to interest people in the topic. If history is forced to share its place at the academic table with civics, geography, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and economics, then students will get at most a brief overview of the subject. Furthermore, any time an overview is given of any subject, a serious weeding-out process occurs, which makes it easier for limited agendas of societal factions to be given overdue importance, creating not history classes, but indoctrination sessions. This whittling down of history also diminishes the demand for knowledgeable history teachers in the classrooms since much less is expected of them. For instance, currently, only about 60 percent of secondary history teachers actually majored in history in college.[7] It is little wonder then that they are so unsuccessful at inspiring interest in their students in the subject.
I claim no final expertise on the subjects covered in this blog and welcome any questions, critiques, or outrages at my take on these historical topics. Above all, I hope you the reader will find the content of interest and use. 
“A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey[8]




[1] Stern, F. The varieties of history from Voltaire to the Present. (New York: Vintage, 1973), 57, quoted in Andreas Boldt, “Perception, Depiction and Description of European History: Leopold von Ranke and his Development and Understanding of Modern Historical Writing,” Historical Perspectives, 12, http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_64280_en.pdf.
[2] Jonathan Alter, “Historical Ignorance Warps American Politics,” Bloomberg, June 16, 2011, accessed February 12, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-17/historical-ignorance-warps-american-politics-jonathan-alter.html.

[3] “Newsweek Polls Americans on Their Knowledge of Being Americans; 38 Percent Failed,” PR NewsWire, March 21, 2011, accessed February 12, 2014, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-release/nwsweek-polls-americans-on-their-knowledge-of-being-american-38-percent-failed-118366914.html.

[4] Andrew Romano, “How Ignorant Are Americans?” Newsweek, March 20, 2011, accessed February 12, 2014, http://www.newsweek.com/how-ignorant-are-americans-66053.
[5] Walter Williams, “Young Americans ignorance baffling,” Columbia Daily Tribune, July 13, 2011, accessed February 13, 2014, http://www.columbiatribune.com/opinion/columnists/young-americans-ignorance-baffling/article_b8fa7cfa-fd86-57bc-86f5-660e268f4c26.html.
[6]Marist poll reveals ignorance of July 4th history,” History News Network, July 1, 2011, accessed February 12, 2014, http://hnn.us/article/140401.
[7] Jonathan Alter, “Historical Ignorance Warps American Politics,” Bloomberg, June 16, 2011, accessed February 12, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-17/historical-ignorance-warps-american-politics-jonathan-alter.html.
[8] Marcus Garvey Quotes, Goodreads, accessed February 13, 2014, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/280448-a-people-without-the-knowledge-of-their-past-history-origin.