One of the most common questions I get in both my Current Events classes and my History classes is "how did we get here?" This has been an even more common theme after the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. I've also had students ask me, "why are we studying this stuff?"
The answers to both questions are connected. I believe that studying History is about learning about the long
view, or the big picture. And that is precisely why we study it. We study it to understand how we got to where we are. Whether we like it or not, we are all connected as citizens of the world. We arrived at this point, this pandemic-political unrest-economic instability moment, through steps taken over the years. Studying history, and the connections made between current news events and our past, provides us with perspective and an understanding of how we are part of the ribbon of human existence.
I follow historian Dr. Heather Cox Richardson and read her daily Letters From An American. Her most recent installment addresses the long view of the riot that occurred on January 6. She points out that right-wing authoritarianism actually dates to 1871 in the United States. It
was a push against the creation of public programs that would benefit everyone. These programs were extremely popular with average citizens, but were seen by the wealthy as a redistribution of wealth. The opposition took the form of anti-union and anti-civil rights activities and the sentiments never really disappeared. You can read the rest of her analysis at the link above.
These past 2 months, and certainly the last 11 days have been some of the most challenging I've faced as a teacher of social studies. I'm pleased by my students' horrified response to the riot, and their insightful questions. And day by day, we work to take apart the situation and to answer the questions about how we got here, slowly working our way towards an understanding of the long view of history.