I remember once in sixth grade, I nearly brought my teacher to tears in asking her the simple question, "Why do we need to know this stuff?" It wasn't that I disliked learning about the Greeks and the Romans and the Egyptians...I just wondered why I needed to know these things. She said "Because it's closely related to the things we do today." I questioned, "But that was then. Why don't we spend the time trying to learn about now and make the future." She never really gave me a satisfactory answer, but I backed off.
I understand that we learn from the past. We should never forget events like the Holocaust, out of both reverence for those who were killed, and to prevent another such travesty at all costs. We have learned not to put Presidents in open-topped limosines, not to deny people the vote, and not let children work 16 hour days.
But things like early hominids, dinosaurs, sixth century catastrophes, etc, while I find them interesting beyond all belief, often cause me to wonder. Do we really need to know these things? Besides satiating our curiosities for details about the past, what purpose do they truly serve. Does it really matter how, in every single minute detail, the Roman Empire fell? Is it more important to spend money on finding the date of the first written language, as opposed to say, feeding the millions of hungry people we have in the world?
Yes, I am interested in it, I won't deny it, but I just want to know what I've wanted to know since I was 12 years old...how and why does it really, and I mean truly, matter?