There are a plethora of sayings out there about the importance of studying History so that we do not repeat it. This is certainly true, but it's equally important to be able to connect the dots between people and events rather than look at History and the operation of our Government as a strict progression of cause to effect moments. For example, by studying cultural, economic, and political developments of the 1920s, we have the advantage of a more enriched understanding of the civil rights movement from 1945-1970. The housing, banking, and automotive collapse of 2007-2008, as well as the economic challenges we are slowly emerging from make much more sense. We can see the impact of marketing and mass production in creating the consumer-driven societies of the 1950s, 60s, 80s, and 21st century. Those are just a few dots to connect from one unit. Imagine the number of dots we could connect in two semesters in two different courses?
As students of History (and good citizens), we have to be willing to investigate multiple perspectives, respect and tolerate all opinions, and understand that there are usually no easy answers on our adventures studying these topics. We also have to be willing to come to terms with the fact that we won't always like what we learn about a topic of study. Not all aspects of our history happen to be pretty. But coming to terms with that history makes us more responsible citizens who become empowered to take action to make positive changes in our society in the future.
Image Credit: Paik, Nam Jun. Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii. 1995. Currently housed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.