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GRE Issue 57 - The Main Benefit Of The Study Of History - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt: “The main benefit of the study of history is to dispel the illusion that people living now are significantly different from people who lived in earlier times. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.”
The statement claims that the main benefit of the study of history is to dispel the illusion that people living now are significantly different from people in the past. Nowadays, people at present may think they are distinct from ancestors. Unlike their predecessors, with the rapid development of technology, people always drive cars to go somewhere rather than on foot or by horse. Numerous things, ranging from the lifestyle to the interests of people, have changed dramatically. However, by studying history, people would learn that people have remained the same up to now in some aspects, such as pursuing love and peace. Nevertheless, from my perspective, the main benefit of the study of history is to prevent people from making the same mistakes rather than dispel the illusion mentioned above.
As time went by, the state-of-the-art machines appears, assisting people to live a better life than people who lived in earlier times. Also, people’s lifestyle and hobbies have changed drastically so far. For instance, a large amount of people are likely to go to the cinema to entertain themselves instead of watching opera at theaters. Increasing numbers of people are willing to utilize the Internet to search information rather than go to library. Every moment, the world is changing at a high speed. Therefore, lots of people believe that they are significantly different from people living previously.
However, with the help of study of history, people may find out that in some cases, they are still the same as their predecessors. By reviewing the African-American Civil Rights Movement, people are expected to discover that people in the past also took great pains to fight for equal rights and democracy regardless of any difficulty they might encountered; By reviewing the World War Two, people can still conclude that striving for peace is a perpetual theme throughout the history of the human race. Therefore, learning history may help people dispel the illusion that people living now are significantly distinct from people living in earlier times in every aspect.
Nevertheless, the main benefit is unlikely to be dispelling the illusion mentioned above. From my perspective, the benefit of the study of history is preventing people from making the same mistakes again. The Culture Revolution in China is an excellent example of this point. Due to the lack of regulations and democracy, government authorities at that time only made decisions of their own accord. They forcefully confiscated people’s private property as well as persecuting them without any justifiable evidence. In contrast, for the sake of preventing this tragedy from occurring again, governments enact laws to restrict government officials’ powers as well as making mass media supervise their daily decisions. Thus, living people benefit a lot from the study of history, avoiding wrong actions and engendering adverse consequences.
In conclusion, even though people living now distinguish from people in the past, the study of history may dispel the illusion that there exists a significant distinction largely because people share the same values all the time. However, the main benefit of the study of history should be prevention from making the same mistakes.
You devote too much time here to defending the assertion that “lots of people believe that they are significantly different from people living previously.” You could legitimately start with the assumption that lots of people believe they are different, which would allow you to focus on analysing the merits of the original claim.
Your essay then acknowledges that we can learn from studying history that we are like those who have gone before, but the essay doesn’t explain in what sense that might be considered a benefit of such study. Why is the illusion that we are significantly different a problem? Why would it be a benefit to us to dispel it? I think it is important to do that both for the sake of making a complete argument, and for the sake of possibly qualifying your second argument, which concerns the possible benefit of avoiding repeating the mistakes of the past. For it may be that if we acquire the understanding that we are like those who made mistakes in the past, we will be more inclined to acknowledge that we are in danger of repeating those mistakes. Of course there may be other salutary lessons that can be learned by those who realise that they similar to their ancestors.