Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The History Problem

One of the eight subjects I'm studying for my Leaving Cert next year is History, and I hate it. I'm hesitant (no I'm not) to rant so soon after my last ranty post (here) so let's just say I'm explaining my point of view and letting off steam.

Disclaimer: YMMV. I'm sure many people love History, both as a LC subject and as an area.


How I feel about Leaving Cert History

It is my least favourite subject, a class that seems to last forever and that I struggle to pay attention in. We study, I think, four courses, and we're partway through the second. The first was about Ireland from 1870 to 1914, when absolutely nothing happened. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but our big Case Studies are about the establishment of an athletic organisation and one election where an important Bill failed but maybe sorta hopefully paved the way for it to fail again twenty years in the future, before finally passing about nine years after that, when public opinion had moved on. 

I mean, at least have the decency to stage a few good uprisings, Ireland.

We spent so long talking about the particulars of clauses in Land Acts to help anonymous tenant farmers and oh my god I do not care.

Oh, and we also have a research study to do (the topic of which I have to decide on before Friday), and while I love scientific research, historical research involves poring over old documents that I really couldn't care less about, and that make no sense to me.

Ways History Doesn't Suit Me

  • It's essentially a list of facts and events in chronological order, with no links or significant groupings. This happened, and then this happened, and then this and this and this - when I prefer "this happened because this happened so this happened until this happened but this happened". I once read advice to make history into a story to help study it, but how the hell can I do that when it's the least engaging story ever made? I'm really good with concepts but awful at memorizing, so I need links between areas to establish connections in my brain. I need to understand things rather than just learning them off, and that's worked really well for me in Chemistry and Physics. But I can't do that in History, because...

  • It tells me how things happened, not why. Sure, we get reasons like "because he wanted to see his wife" or "to look good in front of the press", but those aren't reasons I can get behind because they're subjective, nobody knows for sure what x politician was thinking. And besides, why would I care? That's still not telling me why, because now I want to know what circumstances led to that viewpoint, or how society shapes the media's vision of those events, and there are so many tangential things that it's overwhelming and of course we can't cover it all, it's only a two-year course, but an attempt isn't even made  - science isn't perfect, but at least research outside our course is nodded at, whereas we're just handed this series of events. Whew, long sentence.

  • So much of it is human folly, and I can't bring myself to care about it because these people are nothing like me, and I've never been much of a people person. They make decisions because of their own weird personalities, not because of some immutable physical fact. I interact well with my friends but I'm still introverted and fiercely individual, and people, especially ones I don't know, matter far less to me than things I can find out about the world. The physical world is more reliable, too.

  • But I've been making all my points about science. I'm pretty happy in English (and I love Maths, but that goes into Science). But English accepts that it's not "hard" and doesn't try to be something it's not; we have to learn facts about poets, etc., but we're not looking for justifications that probably aren't even there. History is desperately trying to be a science and it's not working. I was considering moving to Economics, because at least that's more sciencey (even though it's definitely a soft science with models that usually don't work).

So why did I choose History?

I know. You think I'm dumb for doing all this complaining about an optional subject. Thing is, though, when I chose History for this long it was a split-second decision. I recognised it from Junior Cert, thought "eh, why not" and went onto the more important (to me) task of trying to decide between Biology and Physics. 

But you're good at History!

Literally no one but me is saying this but okay. I get As and Bs on the essays because they involve English skill and I am very good at writing essays in general. My brain helps me remember details and fudge around the ones I don't.

Doesn't mean I enjoy it.

Whatcha gon' do 'bout it?

I don't even know what that heading is. Some weird attempt at an accent, maybe? Don't question it.

But yeah, I've been complaining about History for months, hoping it would get better or just overcome by inertia I guess. But on Cathy and Cliodhna and probably a few others' advice, I went to the Guidance Counsellor and missed Irish and English talking about it. Well, no, I went in there and asked about transferring to Economics and she basically said "not gonna happen" and then oh boy did she change the subject. 

She started asking about private stuff, and about stress, and then told me I have too many extra-curricular things going on. I acknowledge that a timetable would be helpful (although I'm in bed typing this already, oh dear) but I'm not giving up my stuff. She said my main concern right now should be my Leaving Cert and that a 16 year old shouldn't be doing all this stuff, but c'mon.

I will destress, because I have to, but WOW what a digression, and my things are part of my identity.

I've decided to just treat History as if it's a compulsory subject so that I don't keep kicking myself for choosing it, and struggle through. 

But don't be fooled: it's still my least favourite subject, and will likely stay that way.

Today, we watched a clip from the movie Platoon about the Vietnam War and I was suuuper disturbed by it, I'm actually a bit angry we were shown it (and my respect for soldiers has dropped to an all-time low of zero).

I don't like history; I like the future. But since everything has happened so that History is part of my immediate future, I guess I'd better get good grades and get along. I have my exciting things happening in other areas. 

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