Can History Repeat Itself?

Editorials News | Mar-03-2023

Can History Repeat Itself

“History is repeatable! From elementary school students to retirees, it is a phrase that is frequently used. Our favorite way to say, "We've seen this before," is to look at our present and draw parallels to the past. However, if you've ever talked to a historian, you've probably heard a challenge. Nuance is adored by historians. The adage begins to lose its credibility as we work our way through the evidence to understand the past. Even though some patterns and similarities span time if we want to deal with the complexity of the past, we need to question straightforward notions of repetition.

The study of change over time is what history is all about. We are acknowledging change when we examine the causes of events, the ascendancy of power, or the economic dynamics of society. There is nothing to study if there is no change. We look for parallels because so much of the past can frequently feel foreign to us. This does not imply that history is devoid of continuity. Even though we disagree with the adage that "History repeats itself," this does not prevent us from acknowledging continuity across periods, locations, or groups of people. Our historical thinking curriculum at Thinking Nation emphasizes the significance of recognizing these patterns to assist us in better understanding our current moment and becoming educated citizens who are prepared to strengthen our democracy.

Presidential elections provide an excellent illustration of how studying the past can help us comprehend how both change and continuity play a role. We are inundated with advertisements that attempt to highlight the negative aspects of each of the two main candidates as we get closer to the election. These advertisements have the potential to reinforce partisan viewpoints and deepen polarization. In a democracy, where people are unwilling to collaborate across party lines and prevent any real change from occurring, this polarization can become very unhealthy. However, while some people can overlook the obstacle this presents to the functioning of our government, others may be overly pessimistic in their fears that everything is doomed. However, if we examine the past, we can find a middle ground, recognizing how this polarization has occurred in the past.

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