As part of Buffalo State's Year of the Teacher and the Philosophy Department's spring 2014 colloquia, William Cook, Distinguished Teaching Professor of History from SUNY Geneseo, will present "How Is History a Useful Discipline for the Twenty-first Century? The Practice of History: Careful Research and Creative Results," on Thursday, April 10, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in Classroom Building C122.
The lecture is supported by SUNY Buffalo State's History and Social Studies Education and Philosophy and Humanities departments and is free and open to the public.
For further information contact Kimberly Blessing, chair of philosophy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Too often, we hear students complaining about having to study history. Sometimes they see it primarily as a memorization and recitation of facts. Who was president during the Spanish-American War? Which King Louis got guillotined? However, such information, now readily available, is simply the background to 'doing history.'
To learn history is to discover how to do research with all of its excitement and frustrations. When writing about medieval figures, I would give anything for an afternoon with the subjects of my research! Research itself is a creative act, following leads and sometimes hunches to look for helpful materials in surprising places and asking new questions to familiar sources. However, really doing history begins when we use what we have discovered imaginatively in order to find patterns of meaning.
We try to put together an accurate story without having all the pieces of the puzzle. Even more creatively, we then need to stand back a bit and ask what our discoveries and insights have to do with the present. In other words, how is history a useful discipline for our twenty-first-century society? We need to apply and speculate about the past, but it is vital that we are aware that we are speculating and not stating facts or predicting the future. I would summarize the job of anyone who uses history—and that is all of us every day—as exercising disciplined imagination."