by Steven Brooks, Historical Studies
When I was a child, my appreciation of historical events was confined to the Titanic, and all things Titanic, and all things vaguely related to the Titanic. You may have noticed that the Titanic looms large in that introductory sentence – almost as large as the ship itself did? That is what I cared about – and it did lead to a few other things that were connected, primarily ships that had sunk in other eras and wars, which necessitated understanding, for example, why the Lusitania was sunk in WWI, or why the Birkenhead sank with its military crew standing at attention on the deck off the coast of South Africa in 1845 so women and children might escape in the lifeboats. But all these were like pieces of a puzzle, parts of which from 1900 to the 1980’s was fairly well assembled, but everything before scattered in disconnected bits and pieces in mind and imagination.
What began the journey of making history become a whole story for me came with college and seminary classes; for the first time, I had to connect the pieces, and care for that which I did not care much for, so that that which I did enjoy could take its’ rightful place in the pageant. But only since I have begun working earnestly in classical education, connecting events in history with literature, science, math and geography, and a hundred other techniques and principles, have I begun to truly love all of history, not just the bits I had naturally gravitated toward. The quote at the head by Aristotle (caveat – it may be only a misunderstanding of something he said misattributed to him, but more on that another time) sums up well what matters with history – the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
When teaching history across the grades, we help students experience the lessons in tangible ways. For example, through class or school presentations, students get in character by dressing in the manner of a historical figure, and recite significant facts about their person and what they meant to the development of the human race across time. In that chain of alternately nervous, excited, timid or brash kindergartners to sixth graders, the whole chain of a time period can be surveyed. Egyptian pharaohs stood next to Moses, Chinese emperors by Charlemagne, Luther next to George Washington – the entire sweep of the rise of the human race in response to the call of God to be fruitful and multiply could be seen. It is that vision that children need to see; that God has created the human race, called it good, gave it leaders who lead for better or worse, God intervenes always for better, and we stand today with an experience and equipment to try and turn the course of society towards a better way, a more excellent way. History tells us, as C. S. Lewis put it, that “God sees because he loves, and therefore, loves although he sees.” Gods work in this world is indeed infinitely greater than the sum of the parts he uses, but the parts have significance too, in His arrangement. To know the parts we like is wonderful, but to see them within the whole of the tapestry of history is even better. When I became a man, I left behind childish things; how wonderful that children today do not have to wait until their forties to discover that the picture of God’s work in time is not limited to what they like, but to who he is.