No wonder learning history was a painful experience. Like an icepick lobotomy or having your wisdom teeth pulled out when you’re perfectly cognizant. Because we had to memorize dates, numbers, names, places, and previous names of the same places. It was never a charming story; it was always a textbook. And reading from a textbook is seldom voluntary. Learn from history, they said. When I was in school, I did learn from history. I learnt English. I learnt how to sleep with my eyes open. I learnt how to yawn with my mouth closed. I learnt how to nod on autopilot. In all other lessons, there was some emotion. “Ugh!” was math. “Wow!” was biology. “My tongue doesn’t move that way” was Sanskrit. “Please, stop!” was chemistry. Even physical education had emotions, we were just too out of breath to voice them out. But history – history was just dead, blank, empty. Once I even thought I would get up at the end of the history period as a ghost and leave my live body behind. We checked each other’s heads for gray hair. We went to CPR courses just to save our classmates’ lives after a history class – lest they pass peacefully in their dull slumbers.
Today, I love history. I am truly fascinated by it. That is because I have ditched the textbooks and started learning from books of nonfiction and historical fiction instead. And most importantly, of my own accord. History is important. But the history taught in schools is hideous and must be banned. Today I can read whatever I want from history. In school we are taught what our country and our board of education wanted us to read and remember and vomit in examinations.
Maybe I would have liked it better in school if they hadn’t droned on about the 6th century BC, but told us instead about the hilarious Medes-Lydian war in Asia Minor, where both parties ended the 6-year-long war in a peace treaty because they witnessed a solar eclipse for the first time, were terrified, and just stopped fighting. Maybe I would have listened to the achievements of the Roman Empire if I had known that Emperor Claudius, a humorous man, issued a decree officially allowing flatulence at Roman dinner tables, because one of his men nearly died by holding it in due to shame. And maybe I would have paid attention to US presidents if I had known that Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot unleashed a string of profanities so loudly and considerably, that it had to be removed from his funeral proceedings.
History is a beautiful medley of stories, humor, art, bloodshed, conquests, diseases, excavations, dinosaurs, and buried treasures. It is not to be studied like mathematical derivations of Fourier transforms that no one ever uses after school. It is to be enjoyed like the beautiful poetic representation it is, because we all indeed have a lot to learn from history. And maybe one day we can tell our historically savvy grandkids, that once upon a time we learnt the names of battles from within a stuffy classroom, and managed to survive.