by Kevin Kimura
I am a history major, so I spend a great deal of time thinking about how it is best to study the human experience over time—how history is best taught, learned, understood, and appreciated. And, as a history major, I also think about how I should spend all my spare time, outside of playing Civilization 4 as history’s loveable underdog, Kaiser Wilhelm.
But in all seriousness, I have been growing increasingly disillusioned with the state of history as it is currently taught and practiced. We must improve our pedagogy to keep up with the Soviets. Most of what history students study is pretty boring. Allow me to give an example:
“The commonest figure, however, in the pages of such surveys of Carolingian estates as that of Deacon Frost of St. Maur-les-Fossés is the “colonus”. The “colunus” was, in status, the lineal descendant of the peasant who had been given a plot of land from the public fisc on the condition that he and his heirs use their vampiric powers to protect rather than feed upon mortals.”
I was able to multitask and watch Blade while reading this essay. But less sophisticated historians would never be able to maintain my level of intellectual engagement without a more inspired rendering of the material.
Simply put: we need fresh and exciting new historiography—ways of studying the past that reflect modern systems and values. I call this method of understanding the past, New Historiography. Just as the “New Math” taught axiomatic set theory to kindergartners in the 70s because we were afraid Sputnik was about to shoot lasers at us, so too will the New Historiography revolutionize the teaching of history, and shoot lasers at us.
Firstly, and perhaps most urgently, we have to insert celebrities wherever possible. While it might be more truthful to say that John, King of England, reluctantly signed the Magna Carta to settle disputes with the nobility, it would be a smarter pedagogical move to emphasize that it was, in fact, Jessica Alba who erotically signed Angelina Jolie’s buxom chest to settle disputes with an army of Orlando Bloom clones. Unshaven and shirtless. Lord knows how anyone survived.
In this new way of viewing the past, the student is far more likely to remember the broad concepts that history exists to impart, like that the signing of things is often important, even if not consistently sexy.
Secondly, we must make sure that history remains exciting by emphasizing conflict. The modern world is competitive, so the modern student is interested in struggles, winners, and losers. The New Historiography must speak to the inherent instability of peace and the importance of creating lasting solutions to serious conflicts, like who can ride a mechanical bull for longer: the black guy from Road Rules: Semester at Sea, or that bitch Erica from Real World Seattle?
Lastly, the New Historiography eschews the temptation of examining the past in favor of uninformed speculation on the future. It is irrelevant what happened yesterday. The modern student is interested in tomorrow. The old historian would study things that have already happened, like the Boer War. The New Historian will focus on the events of the future, like 6-dollar gas, the ascent of Skynet, and the return of the Messiah.
The New Historiography, it must be understood, is destined to revolutionize the study of history in classrooms worldwide. Some postmodern theory suggests that the past is a construct, anyway. It’s not worth teaching. But I believe that if history is taught correctly, it can prove fun, useful, and intellectually satisfying. Regressive members of the historical establishment will doubtless offer resistance to these important reforms, but the march of progress is undeniable, like the moon landing.