Important to learn the lessons of history

History gives us many lessons of ourselves ("Historical narratives must foster unity, strength" by Dr Yik Keng Yeong, and "Significant changes in how history is taught" by Mr Teh Chee Siong ; both published yesterday).

We are frail by nature, and unless we learn the lessons well, we are wont to repeat past mistakes.

We are all descendants of history. But because we have taken different paths to arrive at where we are today, we may have different interpretations of past events. Thus, history is difficult to write.

Historians have an unenviable task of recording events without infusing their interpretations.

After all, they are a product of their time and place.

Depending on who you ask, and where and when you ask, one may get different versions of the same occurrence.

History teachers are not exempt from subjectivity. It is impossible to decouple one's emotions through our tone of voice and body language when engaging young learners of history. Lessons cannot be presented as cold, stoic facts, lest this kills students' enthusiasm in learning.

It is difficult to generate discussions without hearing out subjective viewpoints.

The nature of history as a subject precludes it from being apolitical. One cannot just write or teach history without interpreting it.

History gives a people their collective memory.We cannot ignore history. It tells us who we are.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2015, with the headline 'Important to learn the lessons of history'. Print Edition | Subscribe