Context is Important

Context is important, but we rarely seem to consider it. This is what’s wrong with how we teach History and tell stories, for the most part. We may do a good enough job of explaining what happened and who did it, but rarely spend many calories discussing the world around an event, or the people surrounding a conflict, or the various alternatives and what each might have offered and so on. The Civil War blah-blah-blah… and President Kennedy blah-blah-blah and by the third year of production, Ford decided to blah-blah-blah and on and on. So often the details of everything else going on around an event or a person are abbreviated or are just left out completely. Most of the time this is okay. Most of the time there’s no harm. It’s expedient. Hell, if you had to back up, and back up and back up again to tell a story probably nothing would ever get passed along, I realize that. “Okay, I told you that story so I could tell you this one…” Over time, especially, a lot of those little details can probably fade some. In an age when anything can be looked up, it’s maybe not so important to know the names of all of the Abraham Lincoln conspirators, today. Maybe it’s enough to only know that […]



Context is something I always missed in History class, back in school. The least interesting or important thing about History, to me, was always the dates. Think about it. JFK was shot on November 22nd, 1963. But the important thing here is that he was shot. Then maybe that he was shot toward the end of November of 1963, then that he was shot toward the end of 1963. How would your life be any different if it had been Saturday, November 23rd? I bet it wouldn’t. The thing or event is important, and what the thing means or meant is important. How everyone involved reacted and has reacted since is important. But that it happened on a given day has never carried a lot of water, with me. Where do you draw the line with the granularity, there? Should we teach 1963 only? Should we teach November of 1963? Do we need to teach November 22nd of 1963? Does it have to be Friday, November 22nd, 1963? Friday, November 22nd, 1963, at 12:32pm Central Time in Dallas, Texas? At some point the fact becomes merely trivia. See what I mean? What possible difference could it make? I understand the idea that we need to assign dates and times like an index of sorts to historical events. Event 012345 comes […]