Why Should I Take a History Class? Didn't I Already Take That in High School?

"The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman." --Willa Cather (author, O, Pioneers!) 

The easiest, most reasonable answer is that ANY history class at San Bernardino Valley College will help fulfill graduation and/or transfer requirements. History 100, 101, and 137 fulfill the American Institutions requirement for the California State Universities. In fact, all history classes offered at our college are transfer level, and we have articulation agreements with all area colleges and universities.

That answer does not exactly make taking history classes any more appealing—does it? Actually, I understand why most people tell me, I hate history! If you think about, some people had pretty bad experiences with high school history teachers, like the fictional Mr. McGillicutty who forced his students into trying to memorize every important historical name and date. No one likes to memorize for only the sake of memorization or for passing a test. Most people want to know, “Hey, why do I need to know this?” People want to know how these things from the past relate to them TODAY! There is the old adage that by refusing to learn the past, a person will doom him/herself to a life of repeating the same mistakes. So does that mean, by taking a history course you can prevent yourself from repeatedly making the same mistakes? Not exactly….

Think of it this way: the history of our country is much like the history of our lives, just on a much bigger scale. Looking back at our own, personal past, we can create theories about our lives. That event really changed my life, you may say in reflection of an event that occurred five years ago. However, in another five, some other event may seem so much more important, that the original event pales in comparison. While our interpretations of events may shift with age and perception, our knowledge and understanding should enhance these evolving interpretations. The more we know, the easier it is to understand causal relationships between events. We, as historians, should always be asking: why is this important, what does this event mean to various socio-economic or racial groups, how does this relate to other events? From questions, we may not always generate a consensus in reactions or interpretations. But from others, we can test our theories and even have the freedom to change our minds. If we disagree in historical interpretation, all the better. Test your theories by asking classmates, what about this? How can you explain this event with that interpretation? What is most important is developing some great writing, reading, and critical thinking skills. Oh, and learning some history does not really hurt anyone, either.

The Department of History is a part of the Division of Social Sciences, Human Development, & Physical Education.