Thinking critically about history

It’s Tuesday, start of a new week of online ethics classes. This week the subject is History – which is really more on the critical thinking side of things than ethics.

I start with a story about the Library of Alexandria, mentioning how the huge collection of scrolls has been lost, and ask the students how tragic a loss that is for our understanding of ancient history. Then we go through a series of questions about how we can know that historical records are accurate, and how important it is to know about history. I end with thinking about people in the future considering the present as a part of their history. We are recording more and more of our lives and storing or uploading enormous amounts of information. But imagine if YouTube went out of business and all those videos were lost – and people 100 years from now heard stories about how YouTube contained hundreds of millions of videos, and all of them were lost – how would they feel?

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One thought on “Thinking critically about history”

  1. Maybe it’s because I’m from Israel, but I would have brought Ben Gurion’s speach about the difference between the american Mayflower ship and the biblical Exodus. It’s a really facsinating comparison between a real event that is poorly remembered and a mythical event that has so many details we still celebrate it 3 thousand years after it was supposed to have happened. Since there aren’t any archeological evidence supporting a mass migration from egypt to what was then called Kenaan and today Israel – I’m not sure it is a real historical event, but it did affect a lot of the current situation in the middle east.
    History is a lot of guesswork and very little facts. Maybe the preservation projects of this time period will help the future know about us. Most likely they wouldn’t know the truth, ir won’t believe it.

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