History teachers are sometimes asked: “Why should my child do History? Of what value is the subject? How will it benefit him in his future career?”
As in any academic subject, studying History is a mode of enquiry and is not merely a committing to memory of names and dates. What is involved is an investigation of the past; events, communities and people of the past are studied, not only because they are interesting in themselves, but because they develop within the young person his imagination and an understanding. Through these, he will acquire an appreciation of his heritage and of his and other people’s cultures.
It goes without saying that those who have little or no knowledge and understanding of the past cannot be fully orientated in the world of today. They have no grasp of why current trends in world affairs or developments in this country take the course they do, for these people have no background knowledge upon which to draw. Young people are more interested than one generally realises in ‘what goes on around them’. A background knowledge that is obtained from a study of History enables the young person to acquire an understanding and perspective of the world in which he and others live and thus to contribute in a more positive way to constructive citizenship.
It follows, therefore, that taking History as a subject is beneficial to a young person irrespective of what career he may choose, for in that career he may require a positive sense of values and attitudes which come from a study of those human forces which have shaped the world in which we live and work.