In my childhood, I used to love mathematics and science (I continue to). But I used to hate history and languages. I realize the value of them now. For me, science and mathematics were subjects where we need to use our thinking abilities; you could understand and write. History, and to a certain extend language, had a great deal of memory game. I think even today, the trend continues in the same way. Some of my friends who teach history attest to it. Let me look into the thinking of Heidegger to see the implications of that in learning and teaching history.
Human person is thrown (born) with certain given-ness. You didn’t have any choice on those aspects. But each of your given-ness emits several possibilities. It is our responsibility to appropriate those possibilities. Hellen keller could see many possibilities (with the help of her teacher) despite her being blind and deaf. The education should help students to recognize those possibilities within her/his given-ness.
Many of us are aware of the famous statement, “Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It.” This probably reveals one-side of the story. This could be seen as the negative reason for learning history. “History is not a collection of dead actualities/events of the past, but it consists of repeatable possibilities.” Probably this Heideggerian thinking captures the positive reason for learning history. Learning of the past events is also helping us to look to the future as the possibilities are for the future. (If I use my childhood language, there is benefit in studying history).
As I look now, I realize subjects of history and arts as equally important as science and mathematics. It is the task of the facilitators and teachers to reveal this futuristic value of history.
How to distinguish between a repeatable possibility and a non-repeatable one. In the Heideggerian philosophy, it is not answered as yes/no. Any possibility that can help to make the person more authentic could be considered repeatable. The possibilities shouldn’t be blindly repeated as in the past. It is to be repeated within the context of the person and the community. Here there is a great onus on the person. The role of the teachers (as I understand) is to initiate this process in students.
History shouldn’t be taught as a dead event, but we should be able to make it alive. Philosophy shouldn’t be a history of some thoughts, but it should be taught as a process of thinking. A study of literature shouldn’t be looking on the one established meaning alone, but other possibilities should be kept open. As a child, I loved some subjects because I could feel dynamism and life in it. I couldn’t find in some others. When the teachers of history, literature and philosophy are able to give a glimpse of that dynamism and life to the students, the studies would take a different flavour.
I will conclude with one of the favourite examples of a professor. We have many feasts and celebrations where we remember some great men/women or saints. We open their coffins on that day, look into them and rebury them on the same day. Their life doesn’t make any change on us. When we have an understanding that history is just dead facts, it won’t make any difference. If the futuristic value of history is realized, we would try to reclaim those repeatable possibilities from the life of such great people and events.
I consider the role of education as creation of authentic, creative and critical individuals. A futuristic and dynamic understanding of history is very important for that scheme of affairs. Thus a history class (not only moral science classes) could play a major role in creating authentic individuals.