GMAT : Analysis of An Issue

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An Issue

89. The study of history is largely a waste of time because it prevents us from focusing on the challenges of the present.


Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and / or examples from your own experience, observations or reading.


The speaker suggests that studying history is a waste of time because it distracts us from current challenges. Posed this way, the question carries the assumption that the study of history has no bearing on present problems or their possible solutions. On the contrary, history can provide examples, perspectives and insights that are directly relevant to contemporary challenges.

One way that studying history can help us face new challenges is by showing us inspirational examples of success. For instance, we can learn from the experience of the great inventor Thomas Edison that sometimes a series of apparent failures is really a precursor to success. Also consider the journey of Lewis and Clark into the Northwest Territory. Understanding the motivations needed to overcome adversities they faced can help to inspire modern-day explorers and scientists.

Studying history can also help us avoid repeating mistakes. For instance, we can learn from the failure of Prohibition during the 1930s that it can be a mistake to legislate morality. And future generations might learn from the 1997 indictment of the tobacco industry that it is bad policy to trade off the well-being of consumers in order to secure profits.

Finally, the study of history is important because we cannot fully appreciate our present challenges without understanding their historical antecedents. Consider the issue of whether California should be officially bilingual. The treaty that transferred California from Mexico to the United States stipulated that California must embrace both Spanish and English as official languages. Those who view the current bilingual debate as purely a contemporary issue might bring to the debate a more enlightened viewpoint by appreciating this historical fact and the events that led to the treaty.

In sum, though the past might seem distant, it is far from irrelevant. Studying history can inspire us to achievement, help us avoid costly mistakes and help us simply appreciate that in most cases we've been down this road before.

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