History Becoming More Personable
History is an ongoing study with material being constantly piled and no real authoritative or objective rule on what is or is not worthy of remembering. Usually leaders are thought to be worth remembering, but many Americans have trouble remembering their country’s forty-four presidents. The presidents that are remembered are the ones that implemented initiatives affecting the majority of people they led during their time. This influence has in turn likely brought about an affect on people today and in the future; this affect on the present and future is the reasoning behind their remembrance and not their acquisition of position alone. Really what this goes to show is that things and people are not remembered for who they are, but what they have done that has affected humanity as a whole or certain groups of people. In light of what seems to naturally occur it seems that a history curriculum for the world is unlikely as is even one for a nation or state to be completely relevant and memorable for an individual. History is best learned and most memorable when it is easily relatable and has had an effect on one’s present condition.
Throughout my history classes in school prior to college I remember only a handful of people and events. I remember the basics of how the country began to be inhabited by Europeans and how the country began to resemble its modern state, but largely world history was ignored. This is due to the plethora of information only certain things deemed worthy of the student’s time were allotted time in the various courses attended by students. Even though the amount of information was trimmed down to a small, seemingly defined and relevant grouping there is still only a handful that I really seem to recall from my schooling before college. While in college though I had a professor who seemed to bring everything into a Wisconsinites’ perspective; this is the history class that I most often recall and was most engaged with. While he told about World War One and its affects on the nation I most profoundly remember him talking about its affects on Wisconsin’s German population. There used to be so much German pride in Wisconsin from annual German festivals to a much larger number of German beer manufacturers. During World War One this all changed as national propaganda changed public perspective of Germans from something to be proud of to something one should be ashamed of. Being half German and knowing the hardships that my relatives must have faced at the time it had a lasting affect on me though I’m sure people in the class of another descent may have taken home another piece from the class as something they will always remember from the class. Ancestral background has a lot to do with what history means to someone; I believe that simple histories such as how parents or grandparents met, or how one’s family immigrated to a certain country are also topics of history though seemingly insignificant to those unaffected are memorable and greatly important to those related.
Most of the history I concern myself with has come not from class in fact, but from family members and their personal histories. I can recall stories that have affected my choices in life and inspired me to stories that are relative to how I got to where I am in my life. History to me can act as somewhat of a roadmap as I learned how my great grandfather had to fake his last name to join another family as they left Germany on their way to the United States. In another case I can recall a story of how my grandmother threatened to leave my alcoholic grandfather just before my mother was born if he did not stop getting drunk. Upon that threat my grandfather never drank again and if he had I may have never been born. This history though not taught in school has ultimately affected my family and I and brought us to where we are today. Another history that has become engrained into my memory upon my marriage with my wife is the history of Hmong people. Prior to my marriage I had a little understanding of how they had helped the U. S. in the Vietnam War and immigrated to the United States, but after my marriage their history became a lot more important to me. I now am eager to listen to their stories and memorialize their journey across the Mekong River, as I have become part of their family. It is nothing short of miraculous how my mother in law’s family made it all the way from the jungles of Laos to the refugee camps of Thailand with only losing one person along the way. My father in law on the other hand witnessed countless deaths and was the only one out of his three friends that survived the actual crossing of the Mekong River. Without the courage and determination of my parents in law I would have never come to know my wife; that is how their histories have become such an important and revered history to me.
There is really way too much interesting and worthwhile information regarded as history. It would be nice to acknowledge everyone who has had a lasting effect on this earth, but there is really no way of remembering everyone. As the amount of information becomes more and more the percentage that is able to be retained falls to less and less. This calls for a more personal approach to history and a remembrance of people who have a less of a national or worldly impact and more of a personable impact. In order to truly appreciate history people need to seek out that which will be memorable to them in the long run, which calls for the consumption of information that has had some sort of effect on the consumer. It makes no sense to hear information that is soon forgotten, but to engage in the learning of information that has had an effect on one’s position and has inherent importance to them.
Leech, Joanna. “The Mekong River between Thailand and Laos.” 14 June, 2007. Digital Photo. Retrieved from: http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/1249544