Paul Elisha: The Importance Of Teaching History

Mar 11, 2014

Recent announcements by regional theaters and theatrical companies, in New York’s Capital District and in nearby New England, reveal a spate of performances by Broadway road-shows and locally arranged productions of renowned theatrical works of the past.  Their goals, to make today’s younger audiences familiar with them, thus keep them historically alive.  The idea, although rooted in increased audiences and revenues, is an entirely worthy one.  So much so, it put this elderly commentator on the scent of an appropriate vehicle to familiarize young people with historic political events, worthy of remembrance, through retelling by ethical narrators.  Thus providing better informed citizens, should the same situations occur again, in the future.

This idea, while eminently worthy, is not in the least original.  Perhaps its most notable example was used by the brilliant writer, recently deceased, Ray Bradbury, in his great novel, “Fahrenheit 451”, in which escapees from a fascist dictatorship dedicate themselves to keep great literature alive, by each memorizing a work which they can then pass on to others.  Applying this idea to political use will be much more difficult.  In fact,  it presents similar difficulties to the obstacle of having to cross a mine-field.  This, however, is what makes it so evocative.

As this commentator sees it, volunteers would have to be drawn from the ranks of those who were both alive and familiar with most details of the incident (or series of incidents) at that time.  They would have to provide proof of both, by previous occupation or ability to answer key questions, the answers to which would be relevant.  Their opinions, pro or con, would not be, since volunteers would be drawn from both, which would provide young listeners a great opportunity to witness honest debate, on the subject.

Despite the difficulties presented, this pundit strongly believes in his idea and would be interested in hearing from listeners on the subject.  Naturally, this committee of volunteers would have to have a suitable name, which might describe their function.  If no other benefit is derived than one, it might be to show members of the younger generations, an acceptable and courteous way, to hold a debate, on a particularly onerous subject.  No matter how you slice it, they and probably most of us might benefit from the experience.

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