History: Why you Should Care
Walking in downtown Carlisle one might run into Dickinson undergrads grabbing coffee before their next class, a law student rushing past to make it to their internship, or perhaps high schoolers walking around looking to catch Pokemon. All of whom caught up in what happens next in their own lives- their Modern Language 101 quiz, sorting paperwork, or even catching a Jigglypuff- neglecting to notice the over two hundred years of history that surrounds them. I believe Ferris Bueller says it best in regards to life, “…if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”, however, the 1980s teen hero’s words can also apply to history as well. History helps create and shape self-definition by solidly rooting us in place and time. It also functions as a foundation, or springboard for future generations to learn from and grow.
History works to shape our definition of ourselves, our community, and the intertwined relationship of the two. Cultures, traditions, religions, and languages are all passed down through the years as we evolve and develop. Communities speak languages inherited from the past- with specific dialects dating back hundreds of years (from “yinz” to “hoagies”). History is the reason many Central Pennsylvanians eat Sauerkraut on New Year’s Day for good luck, or why we use specific catchphrases no one else understands. Often times, without realizing it, we take part in these rituals that seem commonplace, and it is not until we stray from our home that we understand how geographically and historically specific said rituals actually are. It is important to realize how firmly rooted we are in these rich traditions and understand the reasoning behind why we are – history.
Let’s return to my previous example, the college students, the law intern, and the high schoolers. They are all living histories. As they carry on with their lives, they will unknowingly become a part of the next chapter in the XL history book high school students will be forced to read.The college students will be a part of the Class of 2017 and as such will be commemorated by a yearbook and senior class gift to the school for the use of students for years to come. The law intern sorting paperwork, will date and organize important legal documents and Wills to be used in Court and filed away for future reference. The high schoolers searching for Pokemon are using technology created by someone in the past (iPhones, Apps, etc.)- but as we all know, will soon be outdated technology as new bigger and better devices become available.
We take an active role in creating history for the future generations. Everyone aspires to “make history” and be remembered, but the same people seeking to make history often cannot be bothered to remember the past, or acknowledge those that came before them. History is not the account of strangers, but rather the story of relatives and friends from long ago- the ‘outdated technology’ if you will, as newer generations evolve and take over where the last generation left off. Having a firm foundation built on the understanding of the people, events, and/or phenomena before us helps teach us important lessons on how we should grow and adapt in the future. This occurs so that we, as a society, don’t simply continue to repeat the past.
We are all a part of history. What seems commonplace today will soon be ancient history that students with jetpacks, self-driving cars, will study and/or experience in virtual reality. What we do today can and will impact society for generations to come. So take the time to stop and look around and read the placards that are dotted across the Cumberland Valley to see what those before you have accomplished. History is all around us, and we are and will become a part of it, so actively take the time to research it, learn from it, and grow.
Madison Baric, CCHS Summer Research Intern, Allegheny College, Political Science/ Communications Major
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