Those who forget history, are doomed to be bitch-slapped by me
For those of you who don't know me in real life, I'm a history major working at a historical society in Maryland. One of my duties is giving tours of our preserved 1815 mansion house. People keep being surprised by the fact that the house has slave quarters. Not surprised that the quarters are on premises, but stupidly surprised. As though they never thought that they would be in a place with that history. As though they've divorced their existence from the past. In some cases they just have no concept of chronology. They ask things like, "this was in the time of slavery?" Did I not just say 1815 at the beginning of the tour? But today was the worst. We have an exhibit about the canal right now, and someone asked how accessible the canal was to people who didn't work on it. I referenced stories of escaped slaves following the canal north as part o the underground railroad. She didn't know what the underground railroad is.
I'm not sure what the point of this rant is. I'm used to people being profoundly ignorant of history. As a medievalist, I'm used to people not knowing what I'm talking about. As someone who is not particularly into American history, I can relate to not knowing details about things that don't strike a specific interest. But how do people get through life not knowing such major things, things that ripple out to affect us today?
This kind of relates to an earlier conversation I had with friends about how many (most?) people have views about the constitutionality of things, without really knowing the constitution. A friend blamed the schools. My response was that we now live in a purely pragmatic society -- schools are encouraged not to teach info for its own sake, only things like how to raise SAT scores and thus go to college to get high-paying jobs.
I don't expect obscure knowledge from the average person, but what is going on in our society when even relevant info isn't common knowledge anymore?