This year has been the most challenging year I have had in my ten years of schooling. It was taxing, stressful, and most nights I started drinking coffee at 2 am to stay awake. However, it was also incredibly rewarding. I have learned so much in history; through discussions and worksheets, and creative projects. Through our extensive and detailed units, I have gathered an overarching thesis: In order to understand the world and it’s issues, one must put their mind into another’s environment. In addition to that thesis I gained a general understanding about the future of humans.
Human evolution and the way we think was greatly challenged in this class. I gained the understanding that, as humans evolve there becomes a great disconnect between humanity and progress. Basically, this just means that as we continue to grow as humans our progress is not measured in morals or humanity, but economically. Whether this is good or bad is mostly based on the type of society we want to live in. From Immanuel Kant’s, What is Enlightenment, I discerned, “As we (humans) have evolved, we have tried to create more things that can do tasks for us and even make decisions for us.” We lose our humanity with each technological advancement. Immanuel Kant wrote this in 1784. His thesis was correct as we have been steadily moving toward this future he imagined. We are dependent on our technology. Through all of the units in history I have questioned my morals and the decreasing morality of people.
One of the first units we did was about the Keystone XL Pipeline. This is a pipeline that is proposed to run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. There are numerous environmental consequences should the pipeline be built. In order for us to understand multiple perspectives, we were assigned to create three original monologues, each from a new perspective. My favorite of the three I wrote was from the perspective of a tree that was going to be uprooted. The beginning went as follows, “I’ve sat through many a fire and brimstone. For every ring around my trunk I have seen another man turn to hell this Eden we have tried to provide. My limbs kiss ground so heavy with weariness. I’m so tired. I find myself weeping with willows whipped from their roots by teeth of dead machine.” Writing this monologue was a new creative challenge. In class we had been discussing whether or not the economic benefits of the pipeline outweighed the environmental hazards. I felt that in order to understand and to help others understand nature’s perspective, I had to write in first person as something from nature. Overall, I think it was a success. I created a neat twist to a current event and that made the unit all the more interesting. I also became more sensitive to environmental issues and starting researching them deeper because of the monologue.
My favorite unit was the religion unit. I entered the unit with a lot of assumptions. Religion has never been apart of my daily home life. I was raised in a household where religion was up to me to decide in my own time. Religion had never been something I was interested in because I didn’t think it had merit beyond tradition. Through exploring different cultures and religions I gained an insight that allowed me to broaden my opinions and understandings. At the end of the unit we reflected in our journals, “In the beginning of this unit I felt like religion was just another way to separate people and the world would be a better place without it…Though I myself am not religious, I do respect the religions of others.” As humans we fill in a lot of our knowledge with assumptions we make. That’s how our brains interpret the world. By slowing down and taking the time to analyze other cultures I gained a great appreciation for them. I even started researching the Wicca religion after the unit was over because I was interested in it on a personal level. The brilliant thing about putting yourself in others’ shoes is that more often than not you learn about yourself. From the religion unit I shaped my identity as an Agnostic Unitarian Universalist. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
World history is especially important because you can understand cultures that you would perhaps never gain an insight to. One of the cultures we got an inside look to was the Igbo culture from Africa. I had never heard of it and would probably never have learned about it if not for our unit on the book, Things fall Apart. This book kicked off our unit on colonialism. There are so many places that have been greatly affected by European colonialism. In response to a poem about the hardships of colonizers, we had to write a poem from the opposite point of view. The first part of my poem read,
“Bring forth a savage sorrow-
Abandon lands of centuries’ grown
Salvage gods to waste they’ve thrown
Lay to rest the peace of yester
Into your wounds let hatred fester.”
I attempted to put myself in the minds of the people being colonized through the research I had done. I find that I really learn better when I am creatively thinking about the historical event that took place. The poem helped me to understand colonialism on a personal level, instead of just seeing it as, “something that happened to some people.”
Understanding the world around you is one of the most important skills you can learn. If given the choice, one should choose to dispel their ignorance and expand their horizons. The truest form of understanding would be to live through the things you are learning about. However, this is not always possible, and sometimes may be dangerous. So I feel that the next best thing would be to put yourself in their shoes. By doing this stretched my empathy muscles. I have developed the skill to see events from more angles than just one. This helps with problem solving. No longer are things just black and white. World History provided many opportunities for me to learn in this creative experimental way.