Joseph Campbell warned us older humans that, "We have the comparatively complex problem in educating our young in training them not to simply assume uncritically the patterns of the past, but to recognize and cultivate their own creative possibilities, not to remain on some proven level. . . . . .but to represent a movement of the species forward."
I have also read somewhere that we have an obligation of determining the best records of what we've done and the best voices and ideas to pass forward, not only to guarantee that the mistakes of the past are not repeated but also to provide the groundwork where the seeds of the future will be cultivated. There's is absolutely no use in learning from scratch every time, especially when so many of the lessons we have learned have been purchased with a tremendous outlay of blood, bone, loneliness, death and suffering.
John Lewis Gaddis once asked a group of incoming freshmen at Yale what connection that the main characters in War and Peace could possibly have with their very different lives. He was taken by the the answer that some of them shared, "They make us feel less lonely." How truthful is that statement, the knowledge that we are not the first or the last to face the future alone, uninformed, and untested?
Gaddis also noted that Thucydides echoed much the same sentiment when the historian encouraged his readers to, "seek knowledge of the past as an aid to understanding of the future, which in the course of human beings it must resemble if it does not reflect it." Gaddis then offered up the idea that future would only become a bad case of collective amnesia and of loneliness amplified to an insufferable degree if Thucydides's words were not heeded.
Our current problem is not that our hopeful young reject some of our past, or that they offer up exciting new ways of looking at things which in turn engender new possibilities. Our problem is when some of their leaders, usually the least intelligent among them, become addicted to the murmuring noise of the crowd and try to lead us forward into realms they know nothing about, then have to maintain their position with oppression and force.
They never care to acknowledge that crowds rarely read and usually get their knowledge from those who wish to use them only to maintain some sense of status quo, nor do they understand, that those behind the scenes of their so-called revolution are usually the relatives and offspring of the same people who pulled the strings in the past that they reject.
This is how a Hitler becomes a Hitler, and a Stalin becomes a Stalin, and a Pied Piper becomes a Pied Piper. The universe has a proven record of putting forward the right people at the right time, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr, or a Ghandi. And even at times, when the whole world needs changing, it offers up someone like Jesus, someone who sacrifices greatly to pay the price for our tremendous stupidity.
Left to our own devices though, we will continue to select the truly stupid, the gloriously self serving, or the proven evil in order to maintain conformity.
Henry Miller wrote, "Man's greatest dread is the expansion of consciousness. All of the fearsome, gruesome parts of Mythology stem from this fear. . . . . The law of the universe dictates that peace and harmony can only be won by inner struggle. The little man does not want to pay the price for that kind of peace and harmony. He wants it ready-made, like a suit of manufactured clothes." How much evil has humankind endured from those who try to buy a plastic wrapped, store-bought sense of meaning?
History states that Xerxes the Persian god-king once punished the sea for its failings, and that the Roman Emperor Caligula once waged war with an ocean. Descrating statues and canceling culture will not bring us down. But the sentiment behind placing sheep into our classrooms in the guise of teachers, of decrying there is no need for history, or even a need to read literature because it's not actual data and can't be used in an algorithm, surely will.