Thursday, January 3, 2008

Time warp~

Teaching history to ten year olds can be a challenge. They've only got ten years under their belts. Taking them back to the 1400s pins them in a time warp so outside their ability to conceptualize that they lose the sense that the ancient cultures were once as alive and vital as ours is today.

I spend a lot of time trying to get my students to see the Mound Builders, lets say, or merchants who traveled the Silk Road, as living breathing people: people who loved, feared, cried, and had needs just like ours. They were people who had a rich culture that was as modern and technologically advanced to them as ours is to us is not something my students understand easily.

Ferdinand Magellan didn't go on his voyage bemoaning the limitations of his compass and astrolabe any more than we wake up and say, "Darn it would be so much easier if I had something better than this iPhone."

Someday, I tell them, school children will read about us, the Ancient Americans, and wonder why we didn't just travel in worm holes when we wanted to go to Mars. Our iPhones will look as dated as the rotary phone already does.

They sort of get it. They laugh at my examples. But still, who is Vasco da Gama really? Nothing like the space explorers of today, they think. Just some boring old guy in a boat, and they miss the sense of courage his journey required. They miss the sense that his life involved more than his celebrated journey around the Cape of Good Hope.

All this made me wonder what future anthropologists will say about our civilization in a thousand years. What will they say about our celebrations and holidays? About New Years Eve?

"People lived in the realm of time," they will say.

Will "time" be a vocabulary word? An unfamiliar concept to students living in the eleventh dimension apart from space and time?

"Ancient Americans gathered in public places called "cities." With the aid of potent beverages and a collective scream they birthed the "new year." To symbolize the birth, they lowered a glowing sphere lit from within by "electricity," an ancient source of heat and light. Wars were fought over the resources used in generating that light."

What will they say about the confetti, the resolutions, and the other cultural customs we follow without thinking-- the kiss at the stroke of midnight, the champagne and streamers? It will be seen as superstition, although we don't see it that way.

Perhaps if string theory proves true, if parallel universes exist, there are children studying us at this moment, wondering why we are so old fashioned.

Weird to speculate, but fun. Who knows?

May the coming year be one of growth and blessing for you as individuals, and collectively as a part of mankind. Perhaps this will provide some perspective. It's not new, but it's always a beautiful reminder of life's purpose. Happy New Year!


Janice Thomson said...

That was beautiful Ruth - in fact this whole post is not only thought-provoking but inspiring as well. I really enjoy your thinking. The video was so beautiful. Thanks so much for this.

Lisa said...

I wish I could have had a teacher like you, Ruth. I am fascinated by history now, but when I was a kid in class all I remember is staring out the window.

I hope 2008 is being good to you so far. :)

Ruth D~ said...

Janice~ Thanks. I have fun speculating like this, and seeing the kids pondering is cool, too.

Lisa~ I did the same thing in history classes. I never saw, or was encouraged to see, the bigger picture-- where the pieces all fit.

Wanda said...

Oh Ruth, I loved this. What a blessing your students have in you as their teacher.

One of the things I like to do mentally is stretch my mind...thank you for doing that for me today!!!

BTW you and Janice do such lovely work together...Loved her post today.

Ruth D~ said...

Wanda~ Thank you. There is very little time to stretch kids minds these days. The central question being asked about everything we teach is, "Is it in the standards?" Translation: "Will it be on the state exam?"
As for Janice . . . I'm always thrilled when she chooses one of my photos. She makes them shine with her words.

Rick Bylina said...


Strip the kids naked, turn out the lights, bring in a sheep and a sharp rock.

"Make clothes."

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaa," collectively.

"4,000 years ago any child could have done it, made dinner, created a needle and thread. Never assume the past was easy by what you have today."

"Can I have a double-latte? I'm not ready for this."

"No, Johnny. You can't, but you can have a squirt of milk from the sheeps teet."

"Yeeeeaaaauuuuuu," collectively.

Lessons in learning. Some are harder than others. Teachers rule.

Ruth D~ said...

Rick~ I love this. Maybe I can have my class put on a play. can do a play.

"Raise your hand if you want to be the naked kids."


Josie said...

What an interesting post. I have discussions like this all the time with my 11 year-old grandson. He can see into the future, and even when he is the age I am now, the world will be a completely different place. It has changed so much even in the last couple of decades. Remember when there was no Internet?

Ruth D~ said...

Tere said:
I had to comment on your choice of The Dash. It was written by my friend Linda Ellis and is one of my favorites. I think it a great reminder of what is really important in life.

Tere: Wow! How do you know her? Six degrees of separation!

***Darn! every now and then when moderating comments I hit "reject" instead of publish.

Here's the url to Tere's blog:

Pauline said...

Reading this made me want to hurry into the classroom and shout - let's pretend we're anthropologists and unearth ourselves. But my students would have been, "Oh yeah, Yawn. Want to see my new Game Boy?"

Maybe it is because small children are able to live much more in the moment than we adults - they don't think much past "when's recess?" and what they might do when they get home that afternoon. I try to be like that as often as possible but when I do, the rest of the world sort of fades away...