Monday, August 9, 2010

And we have a completely new world...sort of

Recently, a friend recommended a book about economics and the global economy.  While I was reading that book, my daughter was reading the AP history review text required for this fall (yes, I was making her start early...more on that later).  Though she was immersed in the events which led to the establishment of the 13 British colonies and I was reading more recent history, the motives, positions (both taken and defended), and outcomes were eerily similar.

There are important facts upon which historical scholars tend to agree, mostly names and dates associated with key events.  Beyond those facts, however, truth becomes largely a function of perspective and nationality.  Take, for example, the recent events around leaked documents, hackers, the intelligence community, and war.  There are variations of truth, shades of gray, and conflicting realities.  It's hard to know which version(s) of these events will be considered "history."  And, without the ability to place current events into a larger historical context, we (all of us) are incapable of being well-informed citizens and making sound judgments about our community and about our world.

One of the raging debates in education is why we bother to educate at all.:

  • What's the intended outcome of government-funded education?  
  • Why does the government fund education?  
  • How do we agree on a body of knowledge that a citizenry should possess?  
  • Is it enough to graduate students who can demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests?

The thread of recent posts mirrors my growing awareness that we just aren't getting it right, despite our best efforts.  And, rather than place blame (since I'm not even sure where to start), I'm making choices I can make to change what I can change.  Thus, I asked my daughter to start on her AP history text and sought reading material from friends whose perspectives are different from my own.   I've been talking with my teenager about how everything is changing globally (Hans Rosling's 2006 presentation is still hard to beat), nothing really changes at all, and how important it is for her to understand her world in order to be a responsible citizen.  We read this article together, then we wondered whether Patrick Henry was viewed in his time as a hero or a heretic; it's hard to know.  What I do know is the education of my daughter to be a world citizen is ultimately my responsibility.


  1. You have selected an overwhelming undertaking... In his "Autobiography," John Stuart Mill recalled how he was responsible for learning Greek and Latin at an early age and then he taught his brothers and sisters. He was held responsible for their learning outcomes and their degree of success in their lessons almost as if their outcomes were his own. He had a nervous breakdown in his twenties. Please consider that your daughter's learning outcomes may also be claimed as her responsibility, or at least a joint project.

  2. You are, of course, absolutely right and I appreciate the gentle reminder. I did have to laugh though, as I am already proximate to at-least-mild craziness.

    Raising a good citizen implies, I hope, a transfer of responsibility...and aging creates a greater sense of urgency.


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