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Time for history or ignore it?

You get a project that a coworker has worked on…..you start a new job or a volunteer role…

Is there anything to be learned from history or what those preceding you did?

A parallel, perhaps more understandable question
Do you need training or education for a job or can you just do the work?

Consider volunteer roles
Positions are constantly filled by different people. How did the organization get to this policy or practice? I had such a question recently. I could have spent days researching. I could have decided I didn’t care, but that seemed arrogant to me. And then flipping through the binders of materials handed to me….there on one sheet was the summary answer to my question which helped me understand the policy.

Consider the workplace
More than a year ago I started coordinating and posting news releases on the national extension Web site, www.extension.org. I was the first person to have that job. How could I frame this new position if I didn’t understand how eXtension (pronounced e-extension) came to be, the goals, the vision?

Idiomatic metaphors come to mind---
• Reinventing the wheel
• Throwing the baby out with the bathwater
• Can’t see the forest for the trees

I believe it’s a dichotomy to declare one must have a specific level of education or experience to hold a job but ignore the history.

Valuing history is a component of civility
It says humility; there is something to be learned from others, what they know and what they have recorded. It’s respect. It’s efficient because you have a logical direction. I want good results; history gives me a shortcut to get there.

It’s a timeless debate. Consider these quotes--

"The function of the historian is neither to love the past nor to emancipate himself from the past, but to master and understand it as the key to the understanding of the present." Edward Hallett Carr, British historian (1892-1982)

"History is more or less bunk." Henry Ford, U.S. automobile industrialist (1863-1947)

"What experience and history teach is this---that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it." Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher (1770-1831)


This post touched on a "hot button" for me. I've been in way too many situations where a group of people choose to ignore history. I always try to operate from the framework that a person or committees or boards, etc. had reasons for making the decision(s) they did. The reasons and decisions may or may not be relevant at the current time but the history is worthy of a review.