• telegraph leoscrew

    Picture on left: Communication begins with Morse Code on handmade Telegraph Machines.

    Picture on Right: Da Vinci’s version of an Archimedean Screw at the Da Vinci Machines exhibit.

    We are in an especially unique time, politically and socially. In the last couple of years in the United States (though other countries in the world are undoubtedly going through their own struggles and strife) the divide between people with different philosophical thought seems to have dramatically grown into an almost insurmountable disconnect between communities. As I read and watch, I can’t help but notice that the root of most of our problems is cultural and historical ignorance. This is not a partisan issue. The way news is reported and shared, the arguments made on social media, and the lack of deep immersion into history & the humanities in the classroom are all pervasive in every community and are our greatest barrier to progress and social justice. The reality is that the interdisciplinary study of History and the Humanities provides context, understanding, personal growth, and social impact. If we were to make these subjects a priority both in our classrooms and in our communities, if we were to deepen our exposure and connection to the past and the present, the study of History & the Humanities could save us all.

    Here are 5 reasons why:


    Understanding History & the Humanities gives us context.

    Putting people, places and events into both a linear chronology and a cyclical pattern of repeated behaviors shows us the connection between what has happened in the past and current events. These subjects show us the complexity of a diverse world and the social, religious, and political ideology that has shaped culture over time. Historians seek truth, however elusive and subjective it can be, and the deep immersion into these subjects hones a unique skill in the objective evaluation of fact versus fiction. Historical literacy allows us to understand the larger context of both conflict and community, while revealing the sequence that resulted in our own personal existence and experience. Context is essential in critical thinking about the world in every aspect. With context, we are able to look at the options laid out before us as global citizens with both clarity and nuance, and make better choices to create the world we want to live in.


    History & the Humanities reveal the Human Condition.

    In order to truly make sense of the world, we must understand that the human condition is universal. If the human condition is “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality” then the study of History and the Humanities illustrates the common experience all humans endure, regardless of place or time. Witnessing how those who have gone before us grappled with hardship, celebrated milestones, and made the most impossible of decisions gives us both guidance and hope. When we connect with the idea that humans are more alike than different, we are able to use compassion and tolerance to guide our words and actions.

    History & the Humanities is a prerequisite to active citizenship.

    The study of History and the Humanities front-loads knowledge and skills necessary to participating in, and contributing to democracy. A solid understanding of civics combined with the historical context of our government creates educated, active citizens who can not only vote with confidence but are empowered to advocate for meaningful, positive social progress through candidate or issue engagement. History also provides context for the understanding of law and party politics and proves that anything can be changed with determination and reason. These subjects give us a sense of courage and justice to fulfill our vision of an equitable society.


    History & the Humanities encourages personal growth.

    From History and the Humanities, the stories of individuals and institutions create a picture of ethics, persistence, resilience, and talent that can resonate with us to the point of inspiration. History is full of trial and error, victories and defeats, light and dark, beauty and horror. History and the Humanities show us that the world is constantly changing and teaches us how to cope. We learn to adapt by being innovative and creative. We figure out our place in the story of human history, and in turn are able to form personal identity and aspirations because of it. We see a reflection of ourselves in the arts and sciences that mentor us forward. Through this exposure to our past, we find ourselves, and as a result are able to see all the possibilities that lie in controlling our own destiny.


    History & the Humanities builds values essential to social impact and the future of industry and economy.

    When we have a solid foundation in History and the Humanities, our understanding of historical context and the human condition, the personal growth we achieve as individuals and as a society, and the values we build based on this understanding, all contribute to manifesting the kind of world we want to live in. In order to have an impact, we must start with where we are, and that begins by understanding how we got here. Moving forward means being uncomfortable with parts of our history so we learn from them, making peace with the past by finding insight and inspiration from the Humanities, and combining our collected knowledge and skills to build a new framework for how we look at industry and society. Our economy is changing from competitive to collaborative, our communities are increasingly working together for social justice, and our education system is being critically analyzed for reform on whether it prepares children for the present and future. The knowledge and skills necessary to participate in this rapidly changing world  are found in history (and science) literacy, but are not about a superficial memorization of facts and dates. Critical thinking, making connections and understanding context, networking, innovative process, resilience and persistence, and self knowledge are all values that current thought and industry leaders consistently name as essential pieces to their success. We have an opportunity to supporting these values by prioritizing the most meaningful way to learn them.


    It’s not that other subjects aren’t important, in fact I would argue that the idea of separating subjects is senseless. No subject is an island, they are all a part of each other’s story. But it is in History and the Humanities where we find our best chance in saving the potential and the humanity in all of us, and in turn, the world around us. There are a myriad of ways to explore History & the Humanities based on personal interest, educational philosophy, and environment; what matters is that we do.