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History: Not just a thing of the past

By Collin Schnakenberg

History is a field often devalued due to the increased demand for students in the sciences. While I am not diminishing the call for students there, I plead that this exclusivity be reevaluated.

History provides desperately needed answers about the state of human nature and the direction we as a society are headed. It allows students to learn important skills not often developed and become well-rounded citizens. It is not merely a “dull” field easily scoffed at. By truly evaluating and gaining an appreciation of this field, one can achieve the full educational experience they are paying for.

Having spent nearly four years as a history major, I have spent a fair amount of time “justifying” my choice of career.

“History?” I have been asked. “All you can do with a history degree is teaching!” While it is true that teaching is my intended career goal, it is simply not true that teaching is the only path.

Curating, archeology, general research, archival work, politics and even business research are all large fields that history graduates take active roles in. Of course, this disbelief is indicative of a larger problem for the humanities in general.

Within the past 50 years, there has been a push exclusively toward the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, relegating the humanities to a secondary rank of “curiosity” and “not practical.”

Of course, the humanities are more valuable than advocates of the STEM fields would like to let on. As the name implies, humanities ­– specifically history – are more than just random dates and laws.

History is the story of us, of humanity. The study of history is not sterile; these were real people and real events that have shaped how our civilization functions and how we have evolved into the society we are today.

History tells us where we are going as well. Though the old adage “those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it” is a bit reductionist, the basic principle holds true: history teaches us valuable lessons, both for the society and the individual.

Though history may not be used daily in the STEM careers ­– causing many of these majors to completely dismiss it entirely – it teaches us about ourselves and human nature in general, leading to better interactions between people.

In this increasingly complex world, history and the humanities can help to set people apart, especially as our society becomes further engrained in the service sector. History is more than memorization; it is the ability to think critically and write gracefully. It is a lifestyle and a fascination.

The ability to branch out and become the humanist ideal of the “Renaissance man” is a virtue that is rapidly becoming lost in our progressive society that emphasizes specialization. While specialization can have its perks, it still does a great disservice by denying students the ability to diversify and complete their education. In order to have the full educational experience, one must fully gain an appreciation for all fields, not just their own.

Securing a full understanding of the many nuances and facets of history is an impossible task; like any field, history is full of delicate intricacies. This does not mean the amateur or casual student of history should give up. On the contrary, the multifaceted nature of history is what makes it so fascinating. Trying to determine the truth behind the “facts” that are presented to us allows students to learn how to proper analyze a limited amount of information concisely and accurately.


Collin Schnakenberg is a senior and president of Oklahoma Christian University’s award-winning chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honors society. 

The opinions of guest columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Talon or Oklahoma Christian University. Guest opinions are presented to foster public debate on important topics and comments should be respectful and signed.

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