So needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading Chris Gehrz’s recent post detailing what he learned as a history major at the College of William & Mary. Gehrz is glad he majored in history because:
1. Majoring in history helped him learn how to learn.
2. Majoring in history taught him to think analytically and see patterns in evidence.
3. Majoring in history taught him how to be comfortable with complexity.
Here is a taste of Chris’s post from his blog, The Pietist Schoolman:
I spent a couple days this week in a strategic planning workshop at work. Most of the participants were university trustees who, as leaders of large, complex organizations in the private and nonprofit sectors, are accustomed to this kind of work. They constantly are trying to evaluate organizational strengths and weaknesses, and to identify opportunities and threats on a horizon shifting under the influence of long-term economic, demographic, political, social, and legal trends. It’s future-facing work, not typically the kind of place you’d imagine a historian.
And I’m no futurist. (An exercise that had us predicting not just trends but concrete events on a timeline stretching out to 2024 was not one I’d gladly repeat.) But to the extent that I was able to contribute to that discussion — or similar ones that I’ve had at the department and college level, or in our church — it’s because majoring in history taught me how to assimilate massive amounts of data from various sources and to discern what is and isn’t significant to the question at hand. In particular, studying history taught me how to see patterns of change (and continuity) over time, to relate causes and effects when there are multiple variables, and to do all of this with an eye to context.