“Anything that we learn from history about the chronology of past times assists us very much in understanding the Scriptures.” St. Augustine
In case you haven’t noticed, History has been replaced by “Social Studies” in modern schools. This is because modern educators have imbibed a philosophical idea known as “mechanism” which holds that there is no divine purpose in the world. Things are merely mechanical and everything that happens has a physical or chemical explanation. Thus, as there is no purpose, there can be no beginning, center or end. Everything is equally important, or to be more precise, equally unimportant.
Obviously this is inconsistent not only with Christianity but with sound philosophy. Life is not mechanistic, but is deterministic, with the wisdom and power of God directing all things. This is the source of all meaning and value in the universe–and the key to world history. The understanding of this concept, ultimately, is Wisdom.
Classical academies did not study the subjects schools do today. “History” referred to a style of writing rather than an organized study of the past and was taken up in Humanities. If historical trivia was studied, it was done in Humanities as a relief from the rigors of language study. Yes, learning history was mental recess in classical schools.
Therefore, there is no such thing as a “classical” history program. Schools or study programs that pretend that kids in the old days studied lots of history prove themselves ignorant of it and are mistakenly thinking about the early public schools (1800s) which had already wandered off course.
How it Works
Information is cheap in the 21st century. There is no reason why students should be spending hours learning historical trivia from textbooks rather than the skills they need for advanced learning: Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, etc… No child should be spending years gathering information that can be “Googled” whenever needed or learned through leisure reading. This may have made sense 100 years ago, but not today.
In our world chronology program (which parents have really loved!) students learn an outline of world history that may be visualized for use throughout life. Students begin with the four ages of world history, then study history in layers, moving deeper and deeper while maintaining the big picture at all times.
In the end, students are able to locate just about any person or event in world history by the use of reason, working upon the memorized chronology. This is history with a purpose.
The Right Use of History
Most history courses start with the proposition, “History repeats itself.” and then argue all of history’s uses from there. This, however, is a generalization and oversimplification which really isn’t true. Rarely does history ever repeat itself any more than human beings act the same way in similar circumstances.
The first and most important reason for studying history is to discover the context of things we read. We have to know when the Psalms were written, who was king when Shakespeare wrote, whether St. Paul was familiar with anything Aristotle had said or not, and so on. To understand context, which is at the heart of all interpretation, is the primary reason why wise people need to know history.
The second reason is for Christian living. History preaches a clear message to us, encouraging us to imitate the faith of the saints. When times look cold and dark, history provides a light to help us see what God has done in the past and what He can do again for us.
Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken? has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed? Sirach 2:10
Third, if we would be leaders in our generation and raise leaders for the next generation, we must understand where things around us have come from, where they are now and in what direction they are heading. This is only possible through a chronological knowledge of history and is the idea behind Cicero’s famous words, which explain why few modern students ever “grow up”:
To not know what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child. -Cicero