History education and historical literacy

History is important in its own right, as a way of seeing the world, not just for helping students to write or count or communicate with one another, and certainly not for providing fodder for politicians’ (rival) conceptions of what it might mean to be a good citizen. History is not privileged over all other ways of making sense of the past. But if we wish to ask questions about the past that do not necessarily reflect our present interests (in both senses), and are ready to confront answers that meet standards going beyond our present convenience, it is the most sophisticated and rational way so far available to us of making sense of the past.