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5.2 Final Thoughts -- In Retrospect

The Student's Guide has managed to become both a rite of passage for me as well as a exercise in clarification. I started out to write a simple guide to the history classroom experience and here I am, several weeks later, with a lengthy document that is published on the World Wide Web. I have no desire to publish this manual in the more traditional fashion. There are already several excellent manuals in existence. Anyway, what publisher would take the time to read the personal thoughts and anecdotes of someone like myself, an adjunct, barely employed?

But still, there is a merit to such an exercise. And though not quite an exercise in futility, writing the Guide has taught me one important thing: that the student, all students, must be treated as intellectual and moral equals. Professors who abide by the traditional rules of authority, will perhaps miss the importance of such a Guide. "Students need discipline and structure," they might say. I believe this as well but I also believe that in my own teaching experience I have managed to maintain authority and control without losing sight of the needs of the students. And students do have needs. Important needs. To ignore those needs, for me, is the greatest injustice an educator can inflict upon the student. And I hope that this Guide has made some headway in the empowerment of the student.

That's what it's all about---empowering the student. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that in August 1996, I decided to create The History Guide for distribution on the World Wide Web. A Student's Guide to the Study of History very quickly became the focus of the entire site for it was here that I could make plain for all to see, the reasons why history ought to be studied by all of us.

But what about you, the student? Have you managed to gain anything from this Guide? I assume that you've been able to gather together, in one place, a general guide to the successful completion of your history coursework. And while I would never guarantee that this Guide will enable you to get your "A," I can, without hesitation, assume that you have at least made your foray into the study of history more enjoyable and worthwhile. And that's the way it ought to be!

The study of History can be enjoyable and it must be worthwhile. If not, then the last twenty years of my life have been little more than a waste of time. But I feel as if I've been improved in some way---morally and intellectually. I feel as if I am a better person for having devoted a near lifetime to the pursuit of historical understanding. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Of course, the study of history is not my entire life. No, I have a family--a wonderful wife and three fantastic children. When I have time I build furniture and go windsurfing. I'm an Internet junky. The New York Rangers will win another Stanley Cup! But most of all, I am a human. If professors---all of them---would only sit back occasionally and take stock of what they are really trying to do, then perhaps they might come to realize that their students are human as well.

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