Practical Uses For The Social Studies
Why Moldova Urgently Matters is a prime example of why Dr. Friedman and his colleagues at STRATFOR are for the social studies what Indiana Jones is for archaeology: An example of how a seemingly ‘dry’ subject can be made relevant and exciting to a wide audience. They go Dr. Jones one better, as well, in that they inhabit the real world and not the realm of fiction.
The actual content of this report – on Moldavia’s geographic, economic and cultural ambiguity, as a country with no natural defenses against a larger neighbor that historically has tried to dominate it – is typical of their analysis of other events. It involves using a ‘long view’ of history combined with the kind of geographic understanding that only ‘shoes on the ground,’ or what the military community refers to as ‘human intelligence,’ can produce. Understanding how geography influences history, politics and culture and what recurring themes, such as how the Turks, Hapsburgs or Russians have all dominated Moldavia’s neighborhood at various times as the tides of history have risen and receded, is essential to crafting the kind of analysis that Dr. Friedman and his colleagues regularly produce.
The foregoing is not meant to be an advertisement for STRATFOR but an example of who the social studies are relevant. Too often, what Dorothy Sayers complained of in her ‘The Lost Tools of Learning‘ still takes place in school: compartmentalized ‘subjects’ are taught without sufficiently relating them to each other and to the world around us.
STRATFOR’s analyses synthesize geography, history, politics, culture and economics to interpret and explain events taking place around the world. Knowing the constants – geography and culture chief among them – allows all of these seemingly disparate ‘subjects’ to be woven into a coherent whole that helps us make sense of what we see happening around us. They also are tools for understanding the future implications of actions past and present. The social sciences should never be seen as ‘required’ subjects to be learned, regurgitated at exam time and then forgotten. They equip educated minds for leadership roles that require situational analysis skills, whether in international business, finance, diplomatic or military service. STRATFOR may be one of the more newsworthy examples of the practical application of the social studies, but they are far from alone. For those who wish to be engaged and informed citizens, as well as individuals who aspire to effective leadership in the upper echelons of business and government, the social studies are not only useful, but practically indispensable to sustained success. Not only that, but when well-taught or written with a lively pen, the lessons they impart can fascinate even as they inform.