Why We Do This: Our Mission and Our Goal
“Why do we study history?”
“How can all of this stuff that happened in the past really be important today?”
“When are we ever going to use this knowledge?”
Certainly, every social studies teacher encounters these questions from students at some point in his or her career. We live, after all, in a very pragmatic, utilitarian society in which the value of knowledge is often measured in terms of the immediate or obvious financial benefit that it brings. A teenager who already knows how to write computer source code, for example, may see little point in learning about personalities and events that seem to have little bearing upon his ability to become the next great computer tycoon!
Unfortunately, teachers in the various social studies disciplines on both a high school and university level have found it increasingly difficult in this environment to justify the subjects that they teach, and this only makes it more difficult for students to see the value of what they learn. Some high school teachers and college professors turn their classes into vehicles for political advocacy, a platform from which they can “change the world." Others try to “jazz up” their classes with every technological gizmo possible, drawing the short-term interest of the students without really conveying to them the deeper meaning of what they are learning.
The crucial fact, though, is that the various social studies subjects are not only absolutely essential to the formation of any mature human being, but may possibly be the most important academic disciplines for a student to explore. While this may sound like a bit of a pompous exaggeration, we must recognize the critical roles that a well-rounded social studies education plays in the development of any person.
Knowledge of any kind can be used in a beneficial or harmful way. Any serious study of history will reveal plenty of examples of well-educated people who used their talents to inflict misery, sometimes on a horrific scale. While Jesuit high schools and universities have been known over the centuries as institutions of high intellectual repute, what has distinguished them has been their stress not only on acquiring knowledge, but also on using it properly. The various disciplines within the larger field of social studies provide students not only with essential knowledge, but also with an opportunity to examine – through a plethora of real-world examples from throughout the ages – how knowledge can be used to uplift humanity and how it has instead, at times, been used as a destructive tool.
This, ultimately, is the overarching duty and mission of the Brophy College Preparatory Department of Social Studies. We must invest our time, our attention – indeed, our very selves – to produce young men who not only can compete and interact with society’s sharpest minds, but who will know how to use their knowledge in a practical setting for the greater glory of God.