Editorial: For history’s sake

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The Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) has announced that it has established a regional committee that will be tasked with recommending ways to improve the syllabus for Caribbean History. Essentially, the aim is to make our history more interesting and attractive to students.
This is the latest attempt to address the declining numbers of students who are interested enough in Caribbean History to take the subject and sit the CXC exam. It is something that was highlighted as a major concern by the regional examination body in 2016. Let’s begin by saying that this is a pet peeve of ours. In fact, we have lamented that our history is often treated in such a casual manner that we appear doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
We need only look around at the manner in which we preserve our historical sites or the way in which our culture is cast aside to adopt those of other nations, and it would become obvious that we are not a people that value history and that which is uniquely ours. One need only look at the way in which we support ( or fail to support) our national archives to witness our indifference to history and its value to our society.
How long have we heard of the need for resources to be committed to the renovation of the national archives building? Year after year, adequate monies for the preservation of our national archives fall by the wayside, but we can find money for concerts and all manner of frivolous things. Political and other “priorities” cause nothing to be left for the home of some of our most prized historical documents, including the priceless Codrington Papers. We commend the Council for taking these steps to address this situation because this is very important for our societies across the Caribbean.
However, we must all shoulder the responsibility for reviving the prominence of history in our culture. It cannot be left to the Council and government to ensure that our youth are exposed to our history, and are enthused to learn about our past. We all need to educate ourselves on the history that has brought us thus far and then encourage our youth to do the same. History is the bare truth of who we are and where we have come from, and believe you me, the truth of where we have come from “is stranger than fiction.”
There is no amount of imagination that can match the truth of our history. And that, in itself, makes our history the most interesting thing about our lives. Having been bored by history teachers during our education, we can say that a good history teacher makes all the difference. If your teacher is enthusiastic about history, whether it be a parent, a school teacher or anyone else, that enthusiasm will be infectious and spread. That is a truism of all subjects, but it is particularly true of history.
History is a subject that has the potential to be delivered to an always wide-eyed audience. There is always enough wonderment in almost any topic chosen to keep the audience engaged and wanting for more. And while we may not have the long documented history of Middle-Eastern, African, Asian or European cultures and countries, our history is unique and well worth studying. We have all heard that quote “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” or some variation.
The original, which may have been slightly different, has been attributed to both Edmund Burke and George Santayana – men of great wisdom that lived a century apart. In any case, we know that while the logic is sound, the reality is much different and that is because men often ignore history to their detriment. Their indifference to the truth of history and the consequences experienced allow history to repeat itself. It is for this reason that we find Edmund Burke’s other quote to be more applicable.
He said, “People will not look forward to prosperity who never look backward to their ancestors.” In those few words, Burke demonstrates the link between the future and the past; the importance of history in shaping our future and unlocking our potential prosperity. We recognise that this has been a bit of a rant but offer no apologies. History is one of the most important subjects of our lives.
We can look back at the contribution of our ancestors to the building of the “New World” and we can see our potential and the prosperity that awaits us. Let us not cast aside the wealth that lies in the chronicle of our past. Let it shape the narrative of today and point us towards our future, because to do otherwise will result in a sad tale of lost potential and prosperity

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