I entered Mr. Block’s classroom on the first day of school, the euphoric touch of summer still lingering in the air. It seemed like we were immediately split up into groups- sharing M&M’s amongst each other, trying to understand global inequality. I figured this was probably a one day thing, an interactive icebreaker- a little fun for the first day of school. Little did I know, all year I would be learning and engaging in the world around me with projects, worksheets, class discussions, role plays, and mock trials. From the Age of Exploration to following the Ukrainian Revolution day-by-day, I learned more and more about myself as a global citizen. I realized that, in order to comprehend another person’s lifestyle, culture, situations, etc., it is imperative that you step into the shoes of that person as best you can- and this year’s World History course helped me do that.
“Understand that everyone has their own spiritual beliefs- whether those beliefs are varied, similar, trying, or nonexistent (even the belief in the nonexistence of something is still a belief). Do not drown in your ignorance, but grab onto the life preserver that calls itself the pursuit of knowledge and happiness therein. “Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace” (The Dalai Lama)”
In this class, whenever we spoke about religion in any way, I was fully intrigued. Usually a topic like religion would be overlooked or heckled by someone like myself- a 16 year-old, God-mocking, ball of inquisition. However, just as we have been required to walk in another person’s shoes in an attempt to truly understand who they are, I treaded uncharted territory and uncalm waters. I found that whenever we spoke about religion, I was pulling back bigger things on life, on society, on cultures, filling my knowledge bank with lump sums of information, gaining interest with each new drop of knowledge I gained. I found this especially pertinent when it came to our first quarter benchmark, which explored and compared two religions and debunking (or proving) some of the myths that social media has put forth. In my benchmark, I dissected Satanism and Scientology, two of the most popular, yet occultic, religions. This opened my eyes, forcing me to overlook my previous convictions and explore a new realm as open-mindedly as possible. Granted, I did end up backing up some of my previous thoughts, but I came out of the process having so much more knowledge that I entered it with.
Another piece of writing that explored religion, rights, and belief systems is my response to and analysis of an excerpt from Battle for God by Karen Armstrong. The novel, an explanation and exploration of fundamentalism in different religions lead me to create a very dense and almost insignificant piece of writing, but one that I’m extremely proud of. The excerpt actually dove into the idea behind extremism and what may even be beyond extremism and I found that very interesting, wondering what could possibly be worse or more extreme than, well, extremism.
Our Revolution Guidebook was one of my favorite projects although my end result was less than desired. After long nights of perfecting Keynote animations and timing, exporting it to QuickTime, and further editing it in iMovie (which kept shutting down)- I finally had a finished product.
Well, an almost finished product. There was a requirement for me to have some sort of voice-over or narration during the project- but sweet irony played its role when the technology wouldn’t work on a project about how great technology is. Regardless of the lack of narration in my project, I loved what lead up to this benchmark- all of the videos we watched, all of the research we did looking at the news, following the Ukrainian Revolution day-by-day. This revolution unit was truly an exceptional experience; it was one of the few times in my short high school career that I’ve truly felt engaged and part of something much greater than myself. We were able to step into others’ shoes and see what freedoms we would not be granted in other countries. At one point, we were split into groups and had to research a specific part of the Arab Spring and we also read an excerpt of Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution; at one point, the narrator said the following:
“From that point onwards, I lost the ability to estimate time, in fact, from that point onwards we stepped outside time altogether; lost our link to the passage of night and day.”
I found that particularly interesting. My commentary on that quote was “I think that time is the thing humans truly value most because it is the only thing that is both very sure and unsure. We know we have now, but we many not have later. To take away someone’s perception of time is one the cruelest acts.”
All in all, this part of our revolution unit really harbored a sense of awareness within me. It fostered an understanding that I have a myriad of basic human rights that I take for granted on a daily basis. But that wasn’t the end of it. We then went on to learn about the famous French Revolution and how it affected Europe and other parts of the world, namely, Haiti. The highlight of this unit was a role play that we did, indicting the King for his crimes against the French citizens. Many people were asked to step out of their comfort zones to become a bit more humble or incredibly pious, which made it all the more interesting.
I played the Duchesse de Tourzel, a noblewoman and close friend to the royal family. As a woman of her status, she didn’t want to be bothered with the revolution, swatting it away as if it were a gnat near her tea. She thought very little of it, seeing it as nothing more than a nuisance and a danger to her nobility. When all was said and done, we were told to write a reflection on the entire Revolution. My favorite quote from my reflection is something that I never really thought about before, but is incredibly important.
It says, “They chased after liberty as if it were something to be saved from captivity, or something being held for ransom. They ran after justice as if it were something that would disappear with time. This race against the clock, this idea of “We want it now!” being carried through with immense bloodshed is something that embodies the decline of a revolution. Revolutions must happen with urgency, but without haste. They must happen effectively, but rationally. When weapons and rebel yells come into play, that is when people lose their judgment. That is when people lose sight of the original goal. Granted, it may do the job,, but it doesn’t always harbor a sense of calm and security, a true sense of The End, when all is said and done.” I think that goes for anything in life- there must be a balance of fervor and calm, of passion and humility. I loved the French Revolution unit, as it was one of the most interactive units I’ve ever had in any of my classes.
Finally, one of my favorite responses that I’d written was to an article called Return to Nigeria written in the New York Times by Enuma Okoro. The article explains how Okoro, growing up the United States, began to lose her African identity. Because of that, she decided to return to her motherland, Nigeria, and dive back into her heritage. I think a really important quote from that response is, “Why not return to a place where, as Enuma Okoro mentioned, you don’t ‘have to explain some aspect of your identity on a daily basis, where you did not have to offer people a reason, no matter how subtle, for why you were among them.’ It’s something we require in America that segregates this melting pot. It’s like when kids pick all the vegetables out of a stew and eat just meat and potatoes. I think that it’s important for people to identify where they are from with conviction, especially because there have been hundreds of unprecedented and unwarranted diasporas of people of color throughout the years...”
This year, I found myself thinking about my surroundings and how I affect the world rather than how the world affects me. I enjoyed having the spotlight taken off myself for a while, being asked to try and mold myself into many different types of people and characters to try and understand what I could not come close to comprehending before. I learned more about myself as a global citizen- and that’s something that I’m very proud of.