The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

ON HISTORY

 Many of us have had teachers who were brilliant – and boring. It’s hard to learn from a person when our primary focus is in keeping awake in class.

I was privileged to have received instruction in medieval history by Professor Richard G. Luman. He was one of the most entertaining, knowledgeable and delightful instructors in my college experience.

 When I first saw him I couldn’t help notice the similarity his face bore to the paintings I had seen of Martin Luther – the difference being that Luther was always portrayed with a dour look while Professor Luman always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Later I learned that the good professor was a Lutheran – but I’m sure that was co-incidental.

 Our first day of class, Professor Luman introduced himself to us and began his introduction to the course:

 “Ladies and gentlemen – boys and girls – welcome to my class. Let me begin with some definitions.”

 “The world is divided into three parts. The first is from the creation until approximately the year 500 A. D.; the second from 500 A. D. until approximately the year 1500 A. D.; the last from 1500 A. D. to the present.”

 “Now the first of these is most properly described as archeology; the second, of course, is history; and the third is yellow journalism.”

 I knew that I was going to enjoy this class (and two others which I subsequently took with Professor Luman).

 I don’t know whether it was his tutelage that helped form my view of the world or if he merely reinforced my already existing outlook – but I do admit that I have a more historical perspective on life than most people I know.

 By that I mean that I am reluctant to get involved in the latest fad – realizing that most of these will come and go quickly and probably find themselves as little more than a footnote in the history books that will be written.

 Cabbage Patch Dolls; Boy Bands; Girl Bands; Boys Looking Like Girl Bands; wearing clothes inside out, etc. These are just a few examples of things that enjoyed great popularity and are now largely forgotten. (I sincerely hope the cacophony that we call rap “music” makes this list).

 I admit to a certain laziness on my part in adopting this philosophy. I think to myself, “Why get caught up in something – however appealing it might seem at the moment – when it is going to be forgotten in six months or a year from now?” I would rather think about and experience things that have lasted for a century or two and will probably still be with us a few hundred years in the future.

 We have all heard the Santayana quotation, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

 I prefer thinking about it this way. “The lessons of the past provide us with a guide to a better future.”

 Professor Luman helped me develop an appreciation for the lessons which history offers us. I wish there were more teachers like him – and more people who understood the message that he delivered.

 

 

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Comments on: "ON HISTORY" (9)

  1. My Favorite College prof was a hippy Math teacher who we called goldfish.

    I had him in my freahman year. He did a great job and I went on to get a master’s degree in Math from Stanford.

    http://www.spacenoodles.com
    http://www.hcurci.wordpress.com

    • Isn’t it amazing how these underpaid people make such a difference in the lives of so many?
      Kudos to “goldfish” and all the other great teachers out there.

  2. That is why I’m not buying an iPad- those things won’t last too much longer.

    • About two months ago I purchased my “smart phone”. It’s obviously smarter than I am. So far I’ve mostly figured out how to inadvertently terminate a call while I’m in the middle of our conversation.

  3. “Many of us have had teachers who were brilliant – and boring. It’s hard to learn from a person when our primary focus is in keeping awake in class.”

    Lmao! I had to stop & laugh for a few. You are a wonderful writer! Okay, now going back to finish reading…

  4. “…the Santayana quotation, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    I prefer thinking about it this way. “The lessons of the past provide us with a guide to a better future.”

    I agree with both. The first is a sage warning, while the second provides a more positive outlook which puts the power for change in our hands.

    • In an earlier post I referred to one of my favorite movies, “A Man For All Seasons.” At one point during his many inquisitions as a prisoner in the Tower of London, Sir Thomas More is admonished by one of his inquistors that, “Thomas, your life is in your own hands.” To this More replies, “Well then, I’ll keep a firm grip on it.” Good advice which we all should take to heart.

  5. […] On History (juwannadoright.wordpress.com) […]

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