A deeper understanding of our past

The article ``In Search of Whose History'' Dec. 7, suggests an interesting addition to the school curriculum: courses on civic leadership - a useful study that I would support wholeheartedly. But the purpose of history is not simply to answer questions such as ``What makes a great leader?'' History is much more than that.

The most important questions are the very ones that the author underrates: What are the roots of conflict in the Balkans, and what does this present conflict say about our capacity to create and maintain peace and security?

History isn't celebrity mongering; we get plenty of that through other venues. History is understanding the past, appreciating how we came to this present, and recognizing the future that is open to us. When it comes to civilizations, perhaps the most important point one learns from studying history is the hazard of arrogance. Every great power has ultimately fallen. Let's not be blind to that possible future by ignoring our failures and smugly congratulating ourselves on our successes. Katherine H. Rudolph, Brentwood, Calif.

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