If There's No Exam, Why Should We Study History?

As an international student who came to America only two years ago, one thing stood out to me was that U.S. History is a separate subject that stands out from numerous disciplines. It is also a mandatory course requirement for all students in our school. In my home country, history is deemed as a dispensable elective to learn. When we think of the value of history classes, I assume most students may refer to their GPA and other standardized examinations such as AP History. Meanwhile, history inspires people who first come to America how to better immerse into their campus life and study as well. Hence, one interesting topic popped up in my mind recently: If there’s no exam, why should we study history?

Photo by Joseph Chan from Unsplash

I’ve been wondering about this question for a long time, and I believe I've found the answer; history enables me to think deeper. When it comes to U.S. history, events can be traced back to the 1400's, when Columbus first colonized America. From the initial conflict between the colonists and the indigenous, to the inconsistency between the colonies and the British mainland, we’re gratified that in every conflict, there would be someone standing as a leader who is not afraid of death and tries to build a democratic nation. Those heroes who won the victory of each lengthy campaign undoubtedly deserve awe from their descendants. During my two-year college life, my U.S. History teacher assigned some creative assignments and activities to us every week. He was always expecting us to enjoy the process of exploring historical eras in an entertaining way such as having a film night or invite friends to a historical potluck. I feel like he gave me a positive attitude towards history and an open mind to face the existence of these historical events, but not to judge it too radically, encouraging growth into a free-thinking individual.  

Still, why should I learn the history of an unfamiliar country? I’m eager to know their encounter in the life. In a country that advocates democracy and freedom, but still exists with contradictions, I hope people see from different perspectives, reflect on their relationship with this country, and eventually become an ideologically free person. Whenever we mentioned Lincoln’s Declaration of the Emancipation in class, people always said: “This is the embodiment of human rights and the realization of an equal society.” I do believe, for these students who advocate the value of equality, we will all agree with their views and regard this declaration as the greatest achievement of President Lincoln, a fighter who should be respected, remembered, and even feared. Simultaneously, everyone should be endowed with a pair of historical eyes to experience this world. 

glass orb and city Anika Huizinga