More on the Two Things meme: Glenn Whitman at Cal State/Northridge offers two sets of “two things” for history:
The Two Things about History:
1. Everything has earlier antecedents.
Corollary: all culture, including religion, is syncretic; there is nothing purely original.
Second Corollary: there’s no question that a historian can’t complicate by talking about what led up to it.
2. Sources lie, but they’re all we have.
The Two Things about Teaching History:
1. A good story is all they’ll remember, not the half hour of analysis on either side of it.
2. They think it’s about answers, but it’s really about questions.
[I have no idea who Jonathan Dresner is, but you have attribution and his e-mail.]
Off the top of my head I can’t improve much on those, though I do think the point about the good story applies both in studying history and in teaching it. We need the story to tell us what not to do — fairy tales serve a purpose in establishing myth, and history should do much the same thing if it is to help us avoid the dangers Santayana warns us about (see the Santayana quote at the top right ear of this blog, for example).
It’s all about the story. If the story is remembered, the errors may be avoided. If the story is not remembered, the chances of avoiding the errors are greatly reduced.