Saturday, January 22, 2005

WHY STUDY HISTORY?

WHY STUDY HISTORY? This is a good question. And Professor Gerhard Rempel of Western New England College has some good answers. This appears to be part of a lecture course that he teaches.

From the site:

"History is one damn thing after another,'' said Henry Ford, implying that there is no rhyme or reason in history, that there is no significant difference between a grocery list and a lengthy parade of empty facts and meaningless dates. Every time I take my Ford to the dealer for repairs I cannot help but suspect that the engineers who designed it and the men who put it together had the same conception of engineering and workmanship that Henry Ford had of history. If Ford has better ideas - as the catchy commercial used to say - than its competitors must be fools.

Fortunately, Henry Ford had better ideas about how to make four-wheeled instruments of locomotion than he did about the nature and meaning of history. He himself would have had to admit that without a knowledge and understanding of the long history of the internal combustion engine and the process of making steel, the Model-T would never have emerged from his innovative Detroit assembly line.

What Henry Ford expressed, however, by his memorable aphorism, probably is a common conception that many people still carry around with them in their packed mental compartments for useless half-truths, dangerous generalizations and downright stupidities. Isolated facts, meaningless dates and dead heroes and villains thrown together in random fashion do not make history--like nuts, bolts, pieces of metal and rubber do not make an automobile. There has to be imagination, purpose, design, testing, experience and precise scientific knowledge to make a car. The engineer provides these things. The historian, whether teacher or student, is also an engineer.

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