This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
What is the value of this backward look? First of all, in the minds of some, is the respect it engenders for the culture we have. Our institutions, the content of the social mind of to-day, and human nature itself, have come down to us out of a stupendous past. Into their production has gone the effort of myriads of our forebears, and oftentimes life itself. History gives us the names of many of these and tells us what they contributed. We should know that there were many other benefactors equally great, but unchronicled. Fulton gave us the steamboat, Jefferson gave us the Declaration of Independence, Pasteur discovered important features of the modern treatment of disease, Newton founded the science of physics, Justinian formulated the greatest code of law. For our standards in history we are indebted to Thucydides; in sculpture to Phidias. But who first learned how to kindle a fire? How to boil food? To make pottery? To smelt iron? Who made the first boat? Who invented the alphabet? Who put the first plow into the soil? Who made monogamous marriage the approved relation between the sexes? Who first conceived the idea of one God and one law in nature? We may never have the names to give in answer to these questions, but we can learn much about the circumstances under which these great forward steps were made. We place a higher value on our social heritage when we know something about the creators of it, even though their names remain unknown to us. We understand better the nature of such an institution as the church, the family, the state, the mercantile establishment, when we know the circumstances which surrounded its origin. Since we have formed the habit of judging the past by the good it has given us, we are more ready to devote ourselves to the welfare of future generations.
These values in the study of history have long been known, but only recently have teachers discovered that values of the same kind may be found in archaeology and anthropology which uncover for us the more remote past. A few books suitable for use in the elementary school are now available. Here is a practice teacher's account of the use of two of them, followed by their author's own statement of the advantages they offer.
I used Miss Dopp's books down stairs in one of my practice classes. The children had read The Tree-Dwellers before and were greatly interested. The day before Thanksgiving we read the chapter entitled "The Thanksgiving Feast." They were very anxious to discuss the differences and likenesses between that celebration and ours.
We also read how the cave-women made baskets from splints and how the baskets were decorated. The children had done work of this kind before, so the preparation for the lesson was easy and interesting. They drew patterns on the board to be used in weaving. In another class they did actual weaving.
. . . Anthropology presents to the child a simple society. Its social forces are clear and well defined. Motives are evident. Processes are simple and fairly direct. Technique is simple, and its relation to the process is evident. The child is thus able to perceive the need, and, the need once realized, the child is alert in inventing ways of meeting it. - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 8, p. 153, Katharine E. Dopp.