I have to say that our science departments have been doing a better job than our history teachers in our schools today.   That’s why I think we need to make a call back into the 19th Century to ask a certain Thomas Carlyle to help us learn history to our present young people.

It seems that at least our science teachers are providing living maps to our graduating students toward helping them find their way in a world that is both scientific and historic.

But what about the maps that history departments are providing to our kids?  To tell you the truth, I cannot understand them, and I have long been certified as a California history teacher.

If I am to believe the state California curriculum, history is a kind of list of names of battles and bridges. Plus it is a practically infinite list of names of old politicians and state lunatics (like Adolf Hitler and his doings.)  It is about as easy to leave school with all this as a map to the contemporary history we enter as it is to pass the state bar by studying telephone books.

But, really, the present state of the history curriculum wasn’t everyone’s idea.  It was really far from the idea of the man who has sometimes been called the greatest English historian of all time, that old Thomas Carlyle from 19th Century Scotland.

Today it is common to think of Carlyle’s historic masterpiece, The French Revolution: A History, as a classic of antiquated chronicling.  But when the book came out in 1837, it was seen as the opposite of antiquated.  It was seen as revolutionary in its style as well as its form.

And at that time, King Louis XVI was beheaded only 39 years before Carlyle’s book on the French Revolution came out.  That would be like a historian today writing about events that happened in 1978, during the Jimmy Carter presidency. So for Carlyle, the French Revolution was practically the contemporary history of his own time.

But the importance of Carlyle’s historical production is that it may well have saved England from the kind of revival of a French Revolution that overcame practically every major country of Europe within a century of Carlyle’s book coming out,  That included cataclysms that took place in Russia, Italy, Germany and Spain through all that hard-hit 20th Century.

The key to the difference between Carlyle and practically every other historian is that Carlyle believed history should continue to be written as an epic poem, as Homer started written history with his epic on the Trojan War. That  you may know was the first war between Greece and Turkey that in alternately cold and hot ways continues to be waged between the two nations even to this day.

Because Carlyle put the war of the French Revolution out in 1837 in a lot of 1837 words and phrases that are a little arcane to understand today, his history right now is pretty much outside of all the schools as well as even out of all our bookstores today.  That is the shame of it.

Because like Homer, Carlyle understood that history runs more on the emotion of the people in history than it does on any names or dates or statistics.

I understand that the archaic English that characterizes this history would be an obstacle to the average student.  But thank goodness there are plenty of above average students in our schools who would greatly benefit from viewing history through this classic book.  Surely there could be nothing but good that could result from having several copies of the book around schools where those types of students could get to it.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.