Ok, ok, I'm not really in favor of junking theories. But this post by PM about the syllabus for an introductory International Relations course does prompt me to say that without knowing some history it's impossible to understand "the contemporary condition" (to steal the title of another blog). There is a passage at the beginning of Hobsbawm's The Age of Extremes (which I have quoted previously on this blog) in which he notes the date on which François Mitterand chose to visit Sarajevo when it was under siege during the Balkan wars of the 1990s: June 28, 1992. (Google "Mitterand visit to Sarajevo" and you can find the New York Times article by John Burns, published the following day, which indicates that Mitterand's visit to a city under continuous artillery and mortar fire, as Sarajevo then was, entailed some personal risk; he flew 100 miles in a helicopter over mountainous terrain from the Croatian port of Split.)
But to the point: Why did Mitterand choose to deliver his "message of hope" to the inhabitants of Sarajevo on June 28? Because the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. However, as Hobsbawm points out, virtually no one caught the reference, apart from professional historians and some elderly people (probably mostly Europeans) with long memories. So here's a proposal for the nonce: no student should leave an introductory International Relations course without knowing a little about WWI, including the date on which Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. Ideally, they should learn a few other dates too, such as, for example, the date WW2 in Europe started (Sept. 1, 1939), the date it ended (May 8, 1945), and the date on which the Cold War officially ended with the Charter of Paris (gulp, without looking it up I don't know that precise date myself). And I'm sure one could suggest a number of other dates, but I won't drag this out. Isn't this hopelessly old-fashioned, having students learn dates? Of course, but old-fashioned isn't always bad. I'd much rather that a 19-year-old be able to tell me when Franz Ferdinand was killed and why it mattered than that he or she be able to give a little disquisition on the different versions of realism, liberalism, and constructivism. There's nothing wrong with the "isms" but you have to be able to connect them to something (how else can I say this?) real.