It’s class registration season again, and the hardships of yet another weird semester at the University of Michigan have made it more challenging than usual. Class registration for all courses begins on Nov. 18, and “backpacking,” or adding desired classes to an informal, personalized list, opened on Nov. 8. From what I can tell by talking to people in my classes and my friends, this time of year is either dreaded or anticipated, with very few emotions in between. Hopefully you are excited, but unfortunately for me, I am most definitely on team dread. It is always an unpleasant experience for me to try to squeeze in everything I want into my schedule and make compromises where I wish I did not have to.
One thing that I do get excited about during this time of year is choosing where I am going next in my majors. I am a double major in history and political science, and I truly do love these topics. History was my first major because history was my first love. I am enamored with the past, probably to an unhealthy degree, and if given the opportunity, I could easily fill your head with the most random and needless fun facts, historical information and everything in between. As a young boy, I pored over history books, watched the History Channel — before it was overrun with shows about aliens — and paid the most attention in history class. As I got older, I spent a lot of time on the internet, hours deep in a Wikipedia rabbit hole about this or that historical event. In high school, I put my all into what would become my favorite class ever: AP U.S. History.
While the stress of creating the perfect schedule can be overwhelming, I love looking at all of the different courses I could take while backpacking. It really doesn’t feel like I am taking a particular class for my major, but rather for me, for my pursuit of a greater understanding of the world around me. It’s an opportunity to explore areas I am familiar and unfamiliar with, to look upon them in a new light, from a new angle and different perspective.
To me, history is about the process of learning. It is not really about all of the “facts” or statistics or sequences of events. It is about learning from a variety of sources, developing an understanding and extracting a purpose or use of it. This is why I think everyone should take a history course at some point in their academic career here at the University of Michigan.
The History Department here has an impressive selection of all sects of history for any and every interest. From courses covering topics on sports to a class about witchcraft and even the more traditional Roman history curricula, there are so many topics and avenues for discovery that everyone is bound to be interested in at least one course the department offers.
The offerings from the department are not only impressive but academically useful as well. Most history courses cover humanities credits, making them the perfect opportunity to fill your distribution courses with something that interests you.
It is important to recognize that not everyone is a history major or has the same love for history as me. Yet as someone who has benefited from the history program here, I feel obligated to share the benefits, to extend the opportunity to people who think that it is going to be just another boring history class about old people no one cares about. Not every lecture in a history class is going to be thrilling, I’ll concede that much. Furthermore, assignments are not always fun, and essays are frequently the defining assignments of the class. However, this allows a student to exercise their brain, explore resources and make an argument for themselves. If that argument makes sense and is persuasive, it usually scores well. History classes allow students to participate in the study of history and draw what they wish out of it.
History is often criticized, politicized and seized upon for convenience. This is evident in the hotly contested debate around critical race theory and the teaching of American history in general in today’s political climate. This reinforces the need to take history classes, see the material for yourself and make your own conclusions about the past to draw use for it in the present and the future. Along the way, you may find some interesting things you can take with you and a better understanding of a subject.
Go ahead, take a history class, push yourself to learn something new about something you care about and share it with a friend. One of the best things about history is that you share it with everyone around you, since the human race, for better or worse, is bound by the same past. So use that knowledge to better yourself or maybe just to lighten a conversation. You can better your understanding of the world around you. Or maybe just use a fun fact to connect with friends or acquaintances.
Sam Schmitz is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.