ADDRESS BY MRS EEVA AHTISAARI AT THE HISTORY TEACHING AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SEMINAR,
MARCH 11, 1998
Ladies and gentlemen,
One of a history teacher's fringe benefits is the opportunity to reassess every day the relationship between the local, the national and the international. In the past we find answers to many of today's problems. In fact, what we find still to be relevant in history often tells us more about our own time than about the past as such. Each period faces history with new questions. Each generation redefines its relationship with the past.
In this relationship, it is only the methods that change, though; otherwise the aims remain unchanged. Today, here at Hanasaari in Espoo, you, the members of EUROCLIO, are considering the potential offered by modern information technology in history teaching. Finland is something of a pioneer in this field. Our national education strategy relies on Finnish schools being linked through various networks to the global flow of information. It should be obvious that such access to sources of information and its presentation in multimedia form open up dazzling prospects.
I hope that this conference helps to promote good international cooperation. Though the medium is naturally important, it is not the most vital element in data transfer. The main thing is how we use history, what questions we ask it, and what history gives us. This decade, we have seen that there is a great demand for history. Major exhibitions on historical themes have been touring Europe and films on historical subjects attract huge audiences. History is used to help explain the fast changes going on in the world. Memoirs and works about history top the sales charts. Years celebrating or marking great men and women or historical events interest schoolchildren, too.
What is important in history? Ever since Antiquity, 'change' and 'continuity' have endlessly succeeded each other in the writing of history. In our collective memory, change is embodied in revolutions and dramatic shifts in power, in war and peace, in the sudden deaths of important figures, or in economic collapses. Such times of upheaval and the human destinies caught up in them appeal to the imagination of teacher, scholar, journalist and artist alike.
Today, there is a great need in Europe to underline the long continuity of our continent's history, which includes both good times and bad. It is my belief that today, Europe's history is seen as a positive factor helping to create our identity. Certain experiences of life provide the basis for a sense of community. I have noted with interest the impact that the upheaval in our own times has had on historical thinking. With borders disappearing and people moving around freely, our sense of being European is deepening. At the same time, individual nations and nationalities contribute their own ingredient to the melting pot.
Finland provides Europe with an interesting northern dimension. The metropolitan area alone is a place with a varied and fascinating history. I do hope that during your visit here you will have a chance to learn something about Helsinki and the history of Finland.
I hereby open this seminar and wish you a very warm welcome to wintry Hanasaari!