This section of the paper outlines what the issue is and why it’s important to learn about personal histories.
I grew up listening to my grandmother tell stories. They were mostly stories from books, but from time to time she would tell a short story of my father growing up, or one from her own childhood. These stories pulled from her memory sparked my imagination and brought to life my grandma’s past. It was always so strange to think of my grandmother as young girl in a world so different from my own. Looking back, I realize how important her individual history is in shaping my life. Individual histories are important in helping people better understand the past and making the storytellers understand that their personal story is important. Creating this understanding is like forming a tapestry. One must first acquire the pieces and tools before creating a tapestry. The more detailed the pieces, the more detailed and beautiful the tapestry. Without these pieces, it is difficult to bring the past to life, which is exactly the problem occurring in America today. A decreasing interest in history is causing people to lose their sense of importance of the past as well as the benefits that come with knowing about the past.
This lost feeling about the importance of the past is causing people to become disconnected with history and their own pasts. Ancestry.com has seen this trend in America, with only “half of Americans [knowing] the name of only one or none of their great-grandparents” and with only “fifty percent of American families [having] ever researched their roots” (PRNewswire). These statistics apply to the community of Lincoln. Many people are not taking the time to discover their own family histories, and the story that made them who they are today.
This ignorance of the past causes people to forget how history impacts people today, which in turn causes people to lose the benefits this knowledge of the past provides. In a world that seems to be constantly advancing and looking to the future, it’s easy for people to believe that history is simply something that happened but now has no purpose in modern society. The president and CEO of The Generations Network, Tim Sullivan, reminds us that “our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents each possess a lifetime of incredible, unique experiences that have shaped their lives and impacted our own. It’s important we take time to better get to know our family members and to share our stories” (PRNewswire). The history that people choose to teach to “children is playing a role in shaping their values and beliefs” (Crabtree). Whether their past sounds good or bad, understanding how ancestors impact people today leads to a reassessment of how a person is currently living their life.
There is also a more practical reason for people to know where they came from. Many adopted children seek to find out who their birth parents are, but it’s not always for the heartwarming reasons movies might suggest. Often times, they do this so they can find out their medical histories and discover why they might act the way that they do (Betchen). The past not only shows people where they found their values and predispositions, but their personal pasts can show them why some of them sneeze because of pollen or why some of them end up with Alzheimer’s. The physical makeup of one’s ancestor’s bodies is what makes up their own body.
Going beyond just personal histories, it is important to look at the significance of history objectively. History in general is extremely important to know and understand the past because “our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems” (Crabtree). History has shaped the present that has made humans inescapably intertwined with the past. It has dictated current beliefs and shaped the issues that we face in this world today. If people do not acknowledge history and what it has already taught them “we will find ourselves fabricating a past that reinforces our understanding of current problems” (Crabtree). As people become increasingly disconnected with the past, issues may become more difficult to solve because no one has a proper understanding of its past and will therefore not truly understand how to resolve it. People will only ever look for solutions that they desire to solve the issue, not solutions that will actually solve the issue.
Betchen, Stephen J. “Why Adoptees Need To Find Their Biological Parents.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 3 Apr. 2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
Crabtree, David. “The Importance of History.” Gutenberg College Great Books. Gutenberg College. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
PRNewswire. “Ancestry | Press Releases.” Ancestry | Press Releases. Ancestry.com, 6 Dec. 2007. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.