Humanities Portfolio 2012

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This year, my English and History teacher, Mr. Block, has brought up many world issues that changed my views on the world. Also, he has taught many subjects which I didn’t know about fully or correctly. It’s the end of the year and our last project is to create a final portfolio that shows at least two general understandings about some of the things he taught us and we found out ourselves also then incorporate quotes from our work to support it. My two general understandings are that social inequality will always accompany humanity, and that there’s always another side to a story.

Social inequality has many subcategories to it other than just race, there’s also wealth, power, and etc. In English, we explored a website that gave me a completely new understanding about race. Your race shows opportunities you have, it gives first impressions about your personality to certain people, and it divides people into their own group. Although, you can’t classify someone’s race by skin color, fingerprints, or blood type because race isn’t biological.  In my history journal talking about race, I followed the quote from Mr. Block which was, “race is a social construction” (English journal #26), and then I figured out what he meant when I read on about race on the website. Race has just begun not so long ago because in ancient times, people weren’t divided into groups of race; there were groups of people’s wealth and class. Racism started when slavery became very popular in the US and all the slaves were all African. Many people would discriminate and stereotype people based on their race. This kind of inequality won’t end because just like I posted in a forum discussion about race in our English class, “There are many racists in the world and they raise their children that way, too.” From the same forum, I created another post from which I took from saying, “I read on and figured out that the only cure for racism is FULL equality. There would have to be sacrifices for some groups to even things out. Then I thought...Not everybody is going to sacrifice things in their hard-earned life for other people." (Race: The power of illusion moodle forum)

Another kind of inequality is the division of three classes of wealth during the French Revolution; the commoners, clergy, and nobility. The commoners were the poorest and had the biggest population, whereas the clergy and nobility were the richest and were very little in population. In history journal #27, I wrote a poem in which I created an analogy that compared the current US’s wealth class and the wealth class of France during the French Revolution. “Clergy and Nobility are to the 1%, as the commoners are to the 99%” (History Journal #27). In this unit, not only have I learned about the French revolution, but also that social inequality still remains as if revolutions never happened. There’s still a huge gap of the amount of rich and poor people. Also, I learned that skin color doesn’t make a difference. You can have white skin, but be African-American just like Clare in the book we read during this unit also called Passing. Clare had a racist husband who never knew that she was black, and loved her until he found out. It’s not the skin color you should judge, but their personality if you actually get to know the person.

My other general understanding is that there’s always another side to a story no matter how good or bad the main character can be. Throughout the year, we took part in 2 mock trials. One trial was about the age of exploration with Cortes, his men, King Charles V, the Aztecs, and the system of empire. Everyone was charged with something, and we were be split up into groups for each person and defend ourselves with the sources we had and found ourselves online. With everyone having a fault and more than one person to put the blame on, it was easier to be proven less guilty. I was in the Cortes group and immediately I knew all the blame was going to be put on my group. So my main goal was to put the blame on others. My job was to create the opening statement, and in the process I really felt like a lawyer defending my client. I wrote it as if Cortes isn’t at fault of anything because he was forced into his decisions, basically sugarcoating everything against him and what his actions were. I got so deep into it that I started believing this other side of the story and no long saw him as the bad person. For example, here’s one of the ways I blamed another person and made Cortes look good; “When Cortes was accused of killing 400 Indians, he only did it under self-defense. The Tlaxcalans are to blame for, too because they decided to help Cortes and also fight him, while Cortes only fought back in self-defense.” (Opening statement from Cortes Trial)

The other mock trial was about sweatshops. Just like the Cortes trial, the multinational corporations, poor country ruling elite, poor country workers, US consumers, and the system of profit were all charged with something against them. Again, I was put into the group that everybody was going to attack, and I took the same position in writing the opening statement. “We didn’t force them to work at our factories, they had options in life on how they could make a living and they chose to work in a factory.” (Opening statement from sweatshop trial) This was one of the ways we defended ourselves in the opening statement to prevent from the other groups blaming us for this.

This whole year has been not only a direct learning experience, where Mr. Block has taught us about all the different issues, but he gave a lot of room for letting us learn on our own. The learning “experience” has definitely let me experience and learn these new things in a more and effective way. For example, as I would research for a project online, I constantly ran across new information that I found really interesting and shared it with the class afterwards. Beside all the weeks and months of non-stop work, it was worth it. I feel more confident about my knowledge, and I'm not afraid to actually speak up with giving the correct history of things. Also, this class molded me into a different person understanding the world issues and acting to be the small change.

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