Why Study History?

With so many discipline and course options that fulfill your general requirements for the Associate of Arts Degree, MN Transfer Curriculum, or professional certificate, it seems fair to ask: Why study history? The short answer might be—because it is can be absolutely fascinating to learn of past human experiences and events, successes and failures, dreams and realities. So study history to satisfy your curiosity about some aspect of the past and prepare to find untold stories that await your discovery. But of course, there is more.


It can be truly transformative to acquire knowledge and better understand how events in the past have come to shape your world today. As Sir Francis Bacon is thought to have said back in the 16th century, “knowledge is power.” Be more knowledgeable about the past to feel more powerful in the present. Historical knowledge tends almost invariably to raise one’s level of self confidence—so study history for your own personal growth.


The demands of citizenship in a democratic society offer another convincing reason why students, and everyone for that matter, should study history. The American people, like those of democratic republics around the world, have an obligation to be as informed as possible so that each person can make informed decisions in the voting booth. Historical knowledge will help you discern fact from fluff in the next series of presidential debates. The framers of the Constitution agreed that an informed and knowledgeable citizenry was essential in assuring the sanctity of their experiment in government known as American democracy.


A study of history also offers the opportunity to ask important questions about the past. Is the Iraq War comparable to the Vietnam War? If so—in what ways—and in what ways do differing circumstances and different times distinguish these events? How did FDR’s New Deal programs of the 1930s respond to the Great Depression and were his efforts successful in ending it? How did the state of Minnesota come into being? When and how did American women gain the right to vote and who were the female leaders who then continued the fight toward full equality in American society? When you learn how to study history, you get to choose the questions and acquire the skills necessary to answer them.


Global citizenship in this increasingly interdependent 21st century world brings with it increasing demands for knowledge of world history. With courses in world history, European history, the Vietnam War, the modern Middle East, and contemporary China, you can learn a lot about your world right here at Lake Superior College. Some of you will find yourselves competing for jobs in the global economy. Prepare to do so by studying history.