If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten
Either write things worth reading
Or do things worth the writing
– Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin best deserves the epithet “jack of all trades” or at least all the important ones. Franklin helped establish our very own postal service, the first hospital, and the first public university in Pennsylvania. Ben was fluent in 4 languages, risked treason as the French Ambassador, and sparked social activism against slavery all before he died at the ripe age of 85. Author of the first autobiography, Franklin ensured his voice would live beyond the lifetime of the people he touched. According to old Benjamin’s words, everyone should know his name quite well.
On the contrary, the average American population might know him best as the face of the hundred-dollar bill and secondarily as a founding father. How does a man known and loved by thousands of people across the globe become merely a means to buy an expensive pair of shoes? With the rise of technology, people, especially younger generations, begin to expect immediate feedback. Appreciating history lacks instant gratification and instead requires extensive analysis to understand how past events have shaped current society and its norms. Unable to touch or “see” society, youth see history as a waste of time. Lately, the study of history seems like an anachronism itself.
The question then begs why exactly is it important to revive history for a generation that wants to keep the past in the past. Clichés would say to prevent the repetition of catastrophic mistakes. While it is true that studying history allows the student or politician to analyze the current situation and predict behavior based off historical decisions, one could just as easily predict human behavior through a study of psychology. No, history has more value than mistake prevention.
History matters because events and specifically people from the past have progressed us towards the world we live in today. Every part of present day society can trace its roots back to history. To an untrained eye, the Enlightenment movement in 17th and 18th century Europe may not seem too important to your immediate life. While the Enlightenment may not have produced the iPhone 6s, the norm of innovation needed to create your iPhone owes many of its roots to scientific exploration established during the Enlightenment. An average iPhone user, however, probably couldn’t tell you even the core beliefs of this movement.
This prevalent disconnect from history leads to a pervasive ideology of expectancy and unappreciation. People expect Google to provide an infinite wealth of knowledge and yet never express excitement over their ability to translate ancient Latin scripts in one click. Google has pervaded society so absolutely that people now use it as a verb. Have a question? Just google it. As a person living through just a blimp on the grand scheme of time, it is easy to take for granted the awe-inspiring world around you. Knowing where you come from allows you to have a greater appreciation of where you are today. Frequently that appreciation should involve a salute to Benjamin Franklin.