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Thread: Why is our History and History in General so Important?

  1. #1
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    Default Why is our History and History in General so Important?

    Some of the things that I have seen posted on C2E since I joined have been…

    - Who cares about history?
    - Our history is not important.
    - Our history is not significant.
    - History only holds back our future.
    - Who cares about history? I only care about the future.
    (alternate. we should only care about the future)

    There have been variations on the theme but I am sure you get the drift.

    So I felt it time to look at the topic in a more focused light and look at why it should be important to all of us.

    1) Our history defines us both as a country and a community.

    I find it interesting we as a society acknowledge the importance of recognizing, encouraging and even promoting the history and heritage of “New Canadians” to the point of financially supporting the preservation of immigrant culture, but fail to acknowledge, promote and to the greatest extent fail to fund the preservation of our own.

    Canada has an amazing history of exploration, discovery and settlement, but we fail to teach or promote the amazing stories of how we have developed as a nation once we get past the National rail systems. We ignore our military history and its heroes, failing to even preserve most of the memory of them. We have had many political leaders that have shaped not only what has happened in our country but around the world. On the technological and industrial front we have lead the world in many fields as diverse as Aerospace, Medical research, Automotive, Electronics and others. We have been a world leader in so many fields, but you would not know it from the knowledge of the average Canadian or what is taught in the schools.

    It was once said “the 20th Century belongs to Canada” and it many ways it did, but we fail to recognize it, promote it or teach it. What a great failure as a society.

    Our history has defined us on the world stage and created the worlds modern vision of who and what Canada is, shame most Canadians don’t have that vision of who we are. We have an amazing history that has defined us, as a people, of being leaders, defenders and humanitarians that take the time to “think” through the world around us to find solutions beyond the norm. We have created a leading system of “Universal Health Care” and are known, thanks to our diplomats of the past, as a nation that does not exercise our interests at the point of a gun. Thanks to Lester B Pearson the “Canadian” diplomatic solution ended many conflicts and provided systems that in many cases kept the peace in parts of the world through to today.

    Our military has carried Canadian and International interests forward around the world and not just in WW1 and WW2 but virtually every conflict of the 20th century.
    They have become known as a force not to be taken for granted in military actions and a force that does not walk away. Just as important is the humanitarian aid provided even under fire, assisting those in need, building schools, hospitals and providing the needs of life.

    Our own national government rarely acknowledges their accomplishments, such as the “Battle of Medak pocket” in Bosnia where a small contingent of Canadian Forces personnel stopped a vastly superior opposing force, ended genocides in progress and collected the evidence now being used in war crimes trials.

    Canada’s history has defined us as a country of vision, knowledge, strength balanced with empathy for our fellow traveler on this planet. The world looks at us in many ways as a leader and a power.

    Be proud of being Canadian, promote it, celebrate it, but most of all understand it.

    Edmonton, our community and we as Edmontonians are also defined buy our history and in many of the same ways. We have been leaders in transportation, trade, academia, medical and other sciences. Politically we have had an amazing ride, in spite of being dominated by only a few parties in Alberta there has been many amazing turns and twists.

    In transportation we have gone from the river to rail to the skies, often leading not just the country but the world in how they have been used and developed.

    Technologically we have not just been hewers of wood and carriers of water but have lead many developments and discoveries on a host of fronts.

    As a centre of trade we have been the heart of Alberta since the transport system relied on the waterways. We have been the supplier to Alberta’s and Canada’s North for generations and their centre of the Provinces governance, medical services and academia.

    The members of the Military from Edmonton and the Loyal Edmonton regiment have been leaders, heroes, peace makers and peace keepers. Both in combat and in providing humanitarian aid to places where others fear to tread, Edmontonians have lead the way.

    Much like Canada Edmonton has been defined by its history as a much more than we take the time to recognize. Be proud to be an Edmontonian, learn your history and learn from it. Our history is not just interesting it’s exciting, adventurous, filled with heroes, villains and leaders. Our story is much better than any Hollywood script.

    Be proud to be an Edmontonian, there is a lot to be proud of.

    2) We should be learning from our history.

    History is our record of strengths and weaknesses, an extreme example:

    If George W Bush and his advisors had looked at the history of occupations in the region of Iraq and their own history of failure in Vietnam we would not have the Middle Eastern mess we have on the world stage today. For they have repeated virtually every error.

    How many lives would have been saved? How much would have been saved in time and resources? How much more successful would they have been?

    If history had been studied how much more could have been changed, acknowledged and developed. History helps us as a Country, Province, Region, Community and individuals avoid the mistakes made in the past. “Those that fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it”, think a minute of all the things in your life you could change if you had known, think of all the things we can avoid once we do.

    But history also shows our strengths, where we have the advantage and how can take advantage of it. How many times have I read and heard “we learned nothing from the last oil boom”. Guess we should have studied a little history a little earlier.

    History is one of guides on how we can be successful in the future.

    3) Heritage tourism is a fast growing market segment…

    How many times have heard people return form a European visit and rant and rave about the beautiful cities of the old world, the historic sites, and the amazing preservation of building and features. Visit Paris and not go to the Louvre, walk through Old Paris. England, Big Ben, London Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and so much more. The Great wall of China, Red Square and on and on.

    The rest of the world has learned to market and benefit from their history,

    A list of the business periodicals that have noted “Heritage Tourism” as one of the fastest growing market sectors in tourism is far to large to include here. We already have thousands of people venturing to Canada, Alberta and Edmonton to experience the history of their families and share in our history…we need to take a greater advantage of this opportunity to help us diversify and grow. Seems like an awful lot of people are interested in our history.

    History does not hold back our future; it is and can be an important part of our economic diversification for the future.

    This has been a presentation of just three small segments of why our history is important and how it affects us. Books have been written on the subject and not covered it all so I am not going to attempt to. The ball is now in your court, take the time to learn a little about who you are and how you came to be, you should know at least as much about your history as you do about the history of your favorite sports team, your history is much more important. You might even try to experience a little of it.

    -- Thomas Hinderks
    Proud Canadian and Edmontonian

  2. #2
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    With regards to architecture, one has to BUILD significant important buildings in order to preserve them. Sadly, anything built after 1950 in Edmonton is junky and not worth preserving. We should be trying to build good looking, long lasting neighbourhoods that will be around 200 years or so. It's no secret that the most expensive parts of town in major first world cities are also the OLDEST, and the buildings survived, in many cases through at least two world wars and redevelopment schemes because they mean something to the local residents. Can we say the same about ANY building built after 1950 in Edmonton?
    Last edited by monument; 16-06-2009 at 09:16 AM.

  3. #3

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    A timely contribution, Thomas.

    The Dominion Institute finds that too many provinces and territories do not take Canadian History seriously

    Alberta: F (7th place)
    http://www.dominion.ca/release15062009.pdf

  4. #4

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    I agree. Better move the aviation museum now so it doesn't get lost when we close the stupid airport, which is what the posted message from Thomas was all about.
    "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction" - Blaise Pascal

  5. #5

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    "I agree. Better move the aviation museum now so it doesn't get lost when we close the stupid airport, which is what the posted message from Thomas was all about."

    1) The Aviation Museum is NOT on airport land and as a Municipally and Provincially designated historic site CANNOT be touched by anyone.

    2) What I wrote about is the average persons ignorance of history, as the other posters have obviously figured out.

    You will note that I have not and do not cross post the airport debate into other threads as a matter of good manners.

    Tom

  6. #6

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    I was misinformed. Thanks for the clarification Tom
    "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction" - Blaise Pascal

  7. #7

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    Monument

    "because they mean something to the local residents"

    You said a mouthful with this that goes along way past architecture.

    Things don't MEAN anything to people unless they know about them. We have not promoted or educated Canadians and Edmontonians on our history so for the most part new residents have little reason to care about their new country or community.

    As DustyBear has pointed out we are failing our community/country by not educating our citizens.

    Tom
    Last edited by Thomas Hinderks; 16-06-2009 at 03:14 PM. Reason: format

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by monument View Post
    With regards to architecture, one has to BUILD significant important buildings in order to preserve them. Sadly, anything built after 1950 in Edmonton is junky and not worth preserving. We should be trying to build good looking, long lasting neighbourhoods that will be around 200 years or so. It's no secret that the most expensive parts of town in major first world cities are also the OLDEST, and the buildings survived, in many cases through at least two world wars and redevelopment schemes because they mean something to the local residents. Can we say the same about ANY building built after 1950 in Edmonton?
    Hm, that is an interesting view on buildings, but not necessarily true... in fact, the biggest reason why some old neighborhoods survived to become the interesting neighborhoods of today is because everyone ignored them, and later realized what they had. Look at Old Strathcona - it had a boom in the early 1900s and then was forgotten. The boom of the 1960s and 70s hit downtown, leaving the buildings in Strathcona intact. Later on, citizens realized what they had, and preserved it. And this has been echoed in cities all over.

    The fact is, as the old saying goes, old buildings and old politicians are the same -- they get respectable as they get older. The new trend of today becomes a scorn in 30 years, and an amazing piece of history in 75 years. Old Fort Edmonton was an embarrassment and firetrap in 1900. 50 years later, it was rebuilt because of its value. The old brick warehouses downtown were eyesores and deserving of the wrecking ball until only a few were left - then they were realized for their value.

    Our post-WWII buildings may look uninteresting, but there will come a time when people say "didn't these people know what they were tearing down??" It has always been this way.

  9. #9

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    Sitting beside the highway...

    A huge old steel wheeled Steam Tractor.

    A Stockade Wall with Ft Edmonton sign on it.

    On earthen mounds: a tank, an oil sands truck, or drag line bucket, an oil oil pump...

    In another threat I once suggested that we put on display some of our artifacts along QEII between the airport and the city. I'm not sure if I said it there as well but I've also suggested that a large Steam Tractor be placed on display beside QE II by Wetaskiwin to draw attention to the Reynold's museum only a few miles away. I'd also suggested a stockade wall sign be placed along Whitemud freeway to highlight Fort Edmonton's presence. Bring the history to the people to peak their interest - and increase tourism revenes - thus reducing the tax burden on the rest of us.

    That's "sustainability" of history.

  10. #10

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    KC, history is much more than tourist attractions. As the Dominion Institute pointed out, our classrooms are doing a very poor job in educating Canadian children about their national and provincial history. It's interesting - and quite embarrassing for Alberta - to note Quebec received the highest grade.

    I had a few decent social studies teachers in junior high and high school who did an adequate job, but more often I found the lessons dull. It wasn't until I took some Canadian history classes in university that I realized how interesting the subject is.

    I don't think there's any one fault, rather it's a combination of teaching and curriculum. History, as I was taught, was all about memorizing names and dates. While that's important, it doesn't give context. My university prof was able to do that and gave me a whole new appreciation for our history.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty Bear View Post
    KC, history is much more than tourist attractions. As the Dominion Institute pointed out, our classrooms are doing a very poor job in educating Canadian children about their national and provincial history. It's interesting - and quite embarrassing for Alberta - to note Quebec received the highest grade.

    I had a few decent social studies teachers in junior high and high school who did an adequate job, but more often I found the lessons dull. It wasn't until I took some Canadian history classes in university that I realized how interesting the subject is.

    I don't think there's any one fault, rather it's a combination of teaching and curriculum. History, as I was taught, was all about memorizing names and dates. While that's important, it doesn't give context. My university prof was able to do that and gave me a whole new appreciation for our history.
    i think that's a large part of the tom's original essay, or at least my interpretation of it. history is not "things" even though "things" may be a part of our history and many of those things (although not all) deserve to be physically preserved.

    locally, jasper avenue has a rich history because of it's impact and importance to edmontonians for more than a century. and while we celebrate retaining and integrating the union bank and the hotel macdonald and the goodridge block, i don't think anyone wants a return to dirt roads and wooden sidewalks.

    i think it's important to remember that history is in fact a "living thing" as well and a good jasper avenue example of that is the bay building which is in fact two seperate buildings, both of which required the demolition of what at the time was (or certainly had the potential) to be "historic".

    what is important about history is being connected to it and that takes awareness with or without the physical "attractions". while the touchstones can be an important part of that, even they can be "new" (as in a new royal alberta museum) or old (as in the aviation museum's actual hangar). the real keys are information and knowledge.
    "If you did not want much, there was plenty." Harper Lee

  12. #12

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    kcantor

    Ken you and I are often on the same wave length.

    History is what we have done as a person, a community or a country. The unfortunate part is the people that made the history can't live forever so we need to use the structures and artifacts to tell their story and past it on to the future generations.

    The closer we can get to telling the history using the real places, things and stories the more relevant it becomes.

    Museums, in particular, can no longer be quiet, dark, reverent places (with rare exception), they need to be living, interactive, exciting noisy places where you come and "discover" rather than learn by rote.

    Archives, research libraries and such shall always be a very important part of every museum (and we protect ours as the core), but the areas that touch the public ust be alive.

    When you look at all the exciting history in Canada, Alberta, Edmonton why do we make the classes so dry? This is exciting stuff, lets celebrate it.

    Tom

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Hinderks View Post
    When you look at all the exciting history in Canada, Alberta, Edmonton why do we make the classes so dry? This is exciting stuff, lets celebrate it.
    Amen!

  14. #14

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    In other posts I've suggested that old pictures of Edmonton be posted around downtown Edmonton, Winston Churchill quotes be placed around Churchill Square, the city archives lend out its photos to Edmonton web sites via in a photo a day, etc.

    Of course, it would be great if everyone read Granatstein's books to fully appreciate our soldiers and Canada's place in the world, and it would be great if Canadian and local history lessons were taught with some passion but this is a world with a lot of competing commercial distractions. So, I think we also need to bring our history to all those that have missed it already and to all those that have moved here from other places and don't have any sense of our history.

    If we don't bring it out into the light for everyone to see, it's only going to be discovered by the few that actually take the effort to seek it out. How many people actually read history books or even sit down to talk with old people about their earlier lives. The rest will be ruled by stereotypes and the preconceived and ill-conceived notions adopted from others equally ignorant of our history.

    And for many the clues may be right in front of our faces and we still won't be able to put it into any context. For instance, Edmonton has five parks named after the Famous Five. Edmontonians regularly see the park names but I'm sure few know that our own 'highly esteemed' Supreme Court' actually ruled against them and it was the British court that said; "Why should it not not?" Quite astounding when you think about it, right? Such clues though trigger enquiry, learning and dissemination.

    Or how many know that our truly pioneering, rugged individualist forefathers were voting in the Liberal - and not Conservative party - for something like the first 16 or 17-yrs of Alberta's existence as a province. How can that be - weren't we always a province to the right of centre?

    Of course, subject to check, there's the Saskatchewan NDP party's record of 40 or so years of fiscal conservativism that was undone in a very few years by a deficit/debt loving conservative party. Further behavior at odds with prevailing political typecasts.

    As Einstein said: "The theory shapes the observations."

    So maybe some knowledge of historical fact can reshape the biased theory.
    Last edited by KC; 17-06-2009 at 11:49 PM. Reason: correct the Privy Council quote to: "Why should it not"

  15. #15

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    KC

    I agree with you thoughts and those of Dusty Bear.

    Why do we allow our culture to be over run? We have so much to be proud of.

    Come on Canada, we finally did a movie on Passendale, give us more!!! With broader range.

    Tom

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