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Blogging On History, Science, and Education

Why History? Why Science?

“Why become a historian when there is nothing left to write about?” It’s a refrain I’ve heard more than once when I talk to school students. Another goes like this: “Why be a scientist? Hasn’t everything that can be discovered been discovered?” I think of it as the born-too-late syndrome. It’s not new. And it’s not just children who fall into its trap.
Way back, when the 19th century was turning into the 20th, the president of Harvard suggested that his students not take physics because, “everything that needs to be discovered has been discovered.” There were just a few small things in the field that needed ironing out. As it happened, a young fellow in Switzerland was obsessing about those little incongruities. Much of today’s world is built on what Einstein and his peers discovered.
I’m constantly amazed at how many important historical stories and moments haven’t been analyzed and don’t find their way into history books. Much of our written history is repetitive. Yes, Rosa Parks was a world class hero, but we know her story well. Hardly anyone knows about Frank Bolden or the impact of the Pittsburgh Courier during World War II. The Courier, an African American weekly, was carried on trains and distributed around the country by Pullman porters. Bolden, who was black, was one of the great courageous reporters of that war. He was the only reporter (as far as I can discover) who interviewed the three big wartime honchos: Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill. His was a great voice that needs a place in the pantheon of influential Americans. So, if you have a student who is looking for a subject to write about, Bolden would be a terrific choice.
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