In support of History and Dr Samaroo

By Bukka Rennie
October 07, 2012 –

Bukka RennieWhy History? In recent times history as an academic subject has been given a bad name by students at elementary, secondary and tertiary levels. Students tell you that it is boring and from their perspective it seems utterly purposeless and have little bearing on their careers. What I have discovered is that the problem lies in how history is presented to students.

Only recently, I read in one of the dailies that Dr Brinsley Samaroo, an eminent professor of history at UWI, was lamenting the fact that for the past 25 years history has “virtually been removed as a subject at primary and secondary levels”, that it has been replaced by what is deemed “social studies” and how difficult it has become to get students at UWI to enroll for degrees in history because it is not regarded a major subject as one may regard economics or engineering.

It is a very sad situation. I agree 100 per cent with Samaroo that we must agitate for history to be placed at the centre of the syllabi at primary, secondary and university levels. The question is, why history? It has always been my approach that history is the subject of all the other subjects, the discipline of all the other disciplines.

To comprehend the history of any given country and its inhabitants one must have a working knowledge of the geography of the place, how the climate and environmental conditions impacted on their wellbeing; how the physical infrastructure was built up which is engineering; how they nourished themselves, which is agriculture; the economic activities that evolved as they organised themselves to produce the requirements of living, in other words, sociology and psychology and industrial relations; how they interpreted their lives and how they viewed themselves in relation to rest of the world, which is philosophy, and so on.

In other words, every significant aspect of human endeavour is embraced by history. And precisely because history records human endeavours for posterity. History is the most salient change agent of all the academic subjects. We study history to comprehend what humanity did in the past, how problems were solved, how contradictions and antagonisms were resolved, in order to formulate programmes for social development tomorrow.

Every branch of humanity gains from what is created and accomplished by its other branches in the quest to fashion physical conditions commensurate with the imperatives of the human spirit. It is always only for a while that the human spirit finds itself constrained by the limits of what is objectively possible at any given moment. These stages of comforts as I call them are indeed quite brief in terms of anthropological time.

Only animals function solely by instinct and are forever locked-in to a one-dimensional form of existence, bounded to static modalities, structures and relationships, and differentiate, if at all, only by accidents of natural evolution. Human beings are different precisely because of the power of our reason to forge new instruments and new systems. It is that capacity of human beings to link past, present and future that makes reformation and social revolution a constant necessity of existence.

History provides the agency for constant change. And with that I rest my case. I thank you.

4 thoughts on “In support of History and Dr Samaroo”

  1. “Why History? In recent times history as an academic subject has been given a bad name by students at elementary, secondary and tertiary levels. Students tell you that it is boring and from their perspective it seems utterly purposeless” Bukka

    History is no longer an abstract paper back edition of one singular view etched in the mindset of a subjective writer. It is for the first time an unending collection of knowledge being recorded through the eyes of the world. People across the global village are lending voice to their own versions of history. If for instance I want to know of World War 2, I can access such information via the Internet in visual details. To make history relevant children must role play and engage the characters as I did in our Literature class. I can still remember “friends, Romans, countrymen I came to bury Ceasar, not to praise him….”
    Perhaps role play of Williams independence speech is a good place to start…

  2. History is going ….. history?. I agree that there is little appetite for for truth, facts, events and lessons of the past nowadays but it is the stuff lazy minds and hearts dismiss in times of convenience and regret in times of need. History is like that line we need to connect one point of a piece of land to another to show continuity. We need history to remind us where we’ve been. We need history to guide us to where we are going and we need history to tell us what has been done to correct familiar circumstances. To rid ourselves of history is like saying Eric Williams was not here, Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler was not here, Solomon Hochoy was not here, Learie Constantine was not here.
    We just got rid of a police commissioner that most people had hoped prior to his arrival was the right man for the job but turned out to be a total failure. We need to keep our history and historical facts to remind us that sometimes our thinking can be skewed.

  3. If you don’t understand where you came from you would have no idea of where you are and no concept of where you are headed, a true rudderless vessel, an empty shell of a sub-human being, without a pass present or future. History must be presented and understood conceptually and contextually in order for it to take on life and relevance in the modern world. History like most of the humanities is not and empty collection of facts and opinions but rather a potent tool of analysis.
    I was fortunate that as as student of Q.R.C. in the mid ’70s, I had an outstanding History Master by the name of Rudy Piggot, to whom I am eternally grateful for my love and understanding of history.

    Nuff Said : Derick

  4. Sadly, we have allowed history to be deminished in the eyes of our children. I remember in school History was my favorite subject, but at the same time I came to understand my fellow classmates when they did not like because the found it “boring.” It is a failure of school system to not make history relavent in they eyes of the student. Teach the children that the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Britain was for control of the concessionay sea lanes for the importing and exporting of children that would become slaves in the British Isles and the Americas. Link history that impacts them directly. How those if us that live in the U.S. by choice or by forced removal for our ancestral lands have to suffer today because of laws set up in 1933. History not only has to be re-enacted but must be imported into how past events affect the people today. Yet, I don’t believe governments anywhere want to general populace to understand the truth of life.

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