Stephanie Tran, Staff Writer

It all started with the required reading book Walden Two written by psychologist B. F. Skinner.
The book described an idyllic, utopian commune that flourishes in post-World War II America, in a community where the subject of History is not taught.

When the founder, Frazier, is confronted with this fact, he replies that history has no use, because it is full of mistakes and human recording error.
His conclusion is that there is nothing to learn from the past when one can study and modify behavior in the present and future.

Nothing to learn from the past? As a wise person once said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Just a quick glance at the current economy, the Great Depression and a trip to Google indicates that the U.S., like other capitalistic countries, seems to follow a cycle of economic growth and decay, otherwise known as the 50-60 year-long Kondratiev Wave.

While the person who coined the term, Nikolai Kondratiev, is often mocked for his theory, it still successfully predicted the Great Depression of the 1930s and seemed to describe the U.S. economy in November 2008.

You could also look at Haiti’s history and predict that foreign aid, while generous and helpful, might be harming the country’s economy and social structure even as it rebuilds them.
A perusal of Encyclopedia Britannica’s website shows that in Haiti’s history, foreign aid hasn’t helped its people much, who are dogged, as the country is, by governmental, economic and social problems.
The clear lesson here is that Haiti needs its institutions to be shored up as much as its buildings.

Or you could even look at your own history and learn from it. One of my father’s favorite sayings is, “I was going to say something, but I wanted you to learn from it.”

While some of those lessons involved frustrated tears and angst, there’s no doubt that the best teacher is experience.

For instance, during my first semester here at Mason, I often forgot my keys while heading off to my morning class. Fortunately, I had a roommate who happened to be both compassionate and a student of late morning classes, so she would let me back into my room to retrieve my keys.

While I’m extremely thankful for her kindness, the fact remains that I continued to forget my keys and did not work too hard to hang on to them.

A snowball fight a few weekends ago quickly taught me to zip up my jacket pockets to secure my keys.
Only one wet and miserable hour’s search in the foot-deep snow and a bill for both a new key and a new door lock now has me double- and triple-checking my pockets wherever I go.
To move ahead in life, you need to learn from your mistakes, and the past is an able teacher.

As Rafiki in The Lion King once said, “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or . . . learn from it.” I know where I stand on teaching and learning history. Which do you think is the best way? Running or learning?