As a student, I have never cared much for history. In fact, while I took an advanced placement course in U.S. history in high school, well let’s just say I didn’t get any college credit for it. I think my disinterest came from two distinct, but related things. One, I didn’t care about history–it just seemed totally irrelevant to the life of a 17 year old. Two, I don’t think that the courses I took were taught in such a way as to make the history really come alive–it wasn’t interesting, so I wasn’t interested, which leads back to problem one.
Fortunately, my distaste for history has changed. I now find the subject, if not fascinating, at least palatable. This switch is due in no small part to various instructors I have had the pleasure of learning from, who made history interesting by making it relevant to today. Once I understood that a thorough grasp of history is essential to avoiding the mistakes of the past and improving the future, I could finally appreciate it.
When it comes to health reform in the United States, a working knowledge of the history of reform is vital. As I’ve written previously, that history is replete with failed attempts at meaningful reform. Aside from historians and policy wonks, however, the history of reform is not well known. Of course, Paul Starr authored the definitive history of the health care system in this country, but his book–as those of us who have read it can attest–is not readily digested in the context of the blogosphere. Fortunately, Robert Reich has written a brief piece exploring the historical lessons of health reform. He does an excellent job of tying the past to the present. I strongly encourage you to read it, as history will continue to be written no matter the outcome of the current push for reform. And let me remind you–this recommendation is coming from someone who spent two decades hating history. That should tell you something.