Academic Skills, Historical Thinking, teaching

Santayana Redux

I just wrapped up the first week of school and once again had some opening conversations with my classes about the purpose of studying history and what value history plays in the present. These discussions essentially followed the contours of those that I had last year; however, given that I have many of the same students, I didn’t delve as in depth into the positivist assumptions under-girded many students’ optimistic visions of historical developments.

(To get a sense of those discussions and some of my quibbles with the positivist assumptions, click here to read that post).

However, I was reminded of my conversations from this past week (and those from last year), when I came across this cartoon from the ever-witty Married to the Sea webcomic:

"Run out of Fuel," Married to the Sea -

So, what do people think? Is the horse-riding gentleman a well-versed historian whose study of earlier civilizations’ fuel sources and consumption patterns allowed him to warn these intrepid (albeit short-sighted) Iron Horse charioteers of their descendants’ impending doom? Or might this just be good satire?

In any event, the fact that this cartoon even gets made indicates the extent to which George Santayana and his pithy “axioms” have permeated popular culture. To quote the modern parlance of hashtag afficionados: “#smh”.


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