In “The Importance of Memorizing History” (Secular Homeschooling Magazine, Issue #8, September/October 2009 ), Scott Powell writes:
The most elegant example of the power of history as a guide to life lies in the founding of the United States. When James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and their illustrious contemporaries assembled in Philadelphia in 1787, the critical question they faced was how to more effectively unite the Thirteen Colonies. That they correctly viewed this as the central issue of their deliberations in creating a viable nation dedicated to individual rights stemmed from the fact that they were all fluent in ancient Greek and Roman history.
From history, the Founders sought crucial instruction and insight, and irreplaceable inspiration. They understood not only the danger of the majority violating rights, as through the example of the execution of Socrates, but through other examples such as the unjust ostracisms of Cimon and Aristides. They admired the individual virtue of Roman hero Cincinnatus, but avoided the aristocratic outlook inherent in creating an aristocratic order, the “Cincinnati.” They stood on the shoulders of giants like Solon, Gaius Licinius, and Cicero, in order to see further than anyone before. “Without the classical example,” states historian Hannah Arendt “…none of the men of the revolutions on either side of the Atlantic would have possessed the courage for what then turned out to be unprecedented action.”
Could they have done it without full command of the classical examples of Greece and Rome, including a vast array of memorized facts? Wouldn’t it have been enough for the Founders to be able to Google their history?
Contents © 2007–2009 Deborah Markus
Unifying theory and practice is vital.