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Ignorance of history is catastrophic

I tutored a high school senior a few years back in order to get him graduated and on the way to life viability. He had good, concerned parents who wanted him to succeed, but he was failing history. His reading was just like the old typewriters; words were punched out in a long monotone until he came to the end of the printed line, then he threw his carriage to the next line and stumbled along again. He had a limited verbal vocabulary and misread ‘county’ for ‘country’ and ‘debt’ for ‘didn’t’ and that kind of thing. I liked him, and he was a smart, savvy operator who wanted to ‘just be a machinist.’ He graduated and joined the military so I don’t know what happened to his welding aspirations.
Another time at a piano lesson, my student and I were having a good time singing badly when I remarked that our voices had just crossed the Mason-Dixon Line of low to high. She, a math-smart high school junior, looked blankly back at me. I said something like, ‘You know, the dividing line between the North and the South?’ Still blank. ‘The Civil War?’ Nothing. ‘The American Civil War?’ I should have dropped it there, but I couldn’t. The gist of this episode was that a very nice and intelligent 17-year-old girl only knew a war had been fought over slavery, but wasn’t sure who won. She hated history.
Those last two paragraphs are a long introduction to my point which is ignorance of math and science is a huge problem, but ignorance of history is catastrophic.
Right now the United States is on the verge of a serious economic downturn with a giant and possibly permanent reduction in our standard of living. We aren’t financially viable since we are trillions of dollars in debt to China, for example, and have borrowed money to fight a war that is not in our best interest. Our waning political power is a result of this debt and loss of respect worldwide. Food is being talked about and water is a commodity now, too. When currency is gyrating on the world market, you better duck and cover. Historically, economic downturns of this magnitude lead to war.
The Iran rhetoric that is getting nosed out onto the political scene is just the sort of completely predictable and historically familiar scenario that you would expect. Let’s run another war up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes. A good controlled nuclear mini-war with planes and ships which are still out there flying and floating unused could really prop up our economy and get some defense industries booming.
With an unknowing and therefore easily manipulated public, you can use phrases like ‘Iran is making weapons that are killing American soldiers’ or ‘Iran is against bringing freedom to people everywhere’ on television programming that appeals to ‘the hard-working man’ (I guess women, children and some men are lazy) or those with ‘religious affiliation’ (not all religious people mindlessly turn over their lives to others) and you got yourself a voting block who will get behind this destructive and insane agenda.
The failure of our educational system ‘ a tsunami that has been breaking on the shore now for a long time ‘ has left us with a population that generally cannot learn from the past because it doesn’t know it. Before the Great Depression of the ’30s, there was a long-term reliance on cheap credit which raised debt to catastrophic levels when price deflation occurred. Spending stopped and a false economy tanked. A war brought us out of that morass in the ’40s, and, with some variations on a theme, we can hear that same tune being played again.
Must we all be pawns in a repetitive pattern of history repeating itself? It reminds me of that ‘Star Trek’ episode in which citizens of a warring planet walked agreeably into a killing machine because their leaders had a quota of ‘casualties’ that needed to be filled after a virtual battle. When asked by Captain Kirk just what this war was all about, they couldn’t remember. They had forgotten their history.
Or perhaps like us, they never knew it in the first place.

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