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2010-08-28 21:30:24|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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The importance of history in explaining and understanding change in human behavior is no mere abstraction.

One of the leading concerns of contemporary American politics is low voter turnout, even for major elections. A historical analysis of changes in voter turnout can help us begin to understand the problem we face today. What were turnouts in the past? When did the decline set in? Once we determine when the trend began, we can try to identify which of the factors present at the time combined to set the trend in motion.Do the same factors sustain the trend still, or are there new ingredients that have contributed to it in more recent decades? A purely contemporary analysis may shed some ligh on the problem, but a historical assessment is clearly fundamental -- and essential for anyone concerned about American political health today.

  History Contributes to Moral Understanding

History also provide a terrain for moral contemplation. Studying the stories of individuals and situations in the past allows a student of history to test his or her own moral sense, to hone it against some of the real complexities individuals have faced in difficult settings. People who have weathered adversity not just in some work of fiction, but in real, historical circumstances can provide inspiration. "History teaching by example" is one phrase that describes this use of a study of the past --- a study not only of certifiable heros, the great men and women of history who successfully worked through moral dilemmas, but also of more ordinary people who provide lessons in courage, diligence, or constructive protest.

  History Provides Identity

History also helps provide identity, and this is unquestionably one of the reasons all modern nations encourage its teaching in some form. Historical data include evidence about how families, groups, institutions and whole courtries were formed and about how they have evolved while retaining cohesion. For many Americans, studying the history of one's own family is the most obvious use of history, for it provides facts about genealogy and (at a slightly more complex level) a basis for understanding how the family has interacted with larger historical change. Family identity is established and confirmed. Many institutions, businesses, communities, and social units, such as ethnic groups in the United States, use history for similar identity purposes. Merely defining the group in the present pales against the possibility of forming an identity based on a rich past. And of course nations use identity history as well -- and sometimes abuse it. Histories that tell the nation story,emphasizing distinctive features of the national experience, are meant to drive home an understanding of national values and a commitment to national loyalty.

  Studying History Is Essential for Good Citizenship

History that lays the foundation for genuine citizenship returns, in one sense, to the essential uses of the study of the past. History provides data about the emergence of national institutions, problems, and values -- it's the only significant storehouse of such data available. It offers evidence also about how nations have interacted with other societies, providing international and comparative perspectives essential for responsible citizenship. Further, studying history helps us understand how recent, current, and prospective changes that affect the lives of citizens are emerging or may emerge and what causes are involved. More important, studying history encourages habits of mind tha tare vital for responsible public behavior, whether as a national or community leader, an informed voter, a petitioner, or a simple observer.

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